North Korea nuke papers ‘appear to be complete,’ U.S. envoy says
A U.S. envoy who brought back thousands of nuclear records from North Korea said May 13 that the set “appears to be complete” and that Pyongyang promised to “cooperate fully” on verifying the documents’ content.
Sung Kim, director of the State Department’s Korea desk, told reporters that it would take at least several weeks for an interagency team of experts to translate the 18,822 pages from Korean and review them in detail.
“They appear to be a complete set,” based on an initial assessment, said Mr. Kim, who just returned from North Korea with the documents.
The records are from the North’s 5-megawatt plutonium rector at Yongbyon, whose planned handover to the United States was first reported by The Washington Times three weeks ago. The records date to 1986 and are expected to reveal how much plutonium has been produced.
Plutonium is the most common ingredient of an atomic bomb. Washington, which estimates that the North has between 65 and 110 pounds, is seeking its disposition.
“The North Koreans acknowledged the requirement for verifi- cation and indeed agreed to cooperate fully with verification activities,” Mr. Kim said.
It was not clear, however, what access the United States will have to sites in North Korea related to plutonium activities. The North conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 but, by many ac- counts, it was only a marginal success.
The records are meant to accompany an overdue declaration of North Korea’s nuclear programs, which the Bush administration has insisted must be “complete and correct.”
The delay in providing the North’s declaration, which was due on Dec. 31 under a six-party deal reached last year, was caused by Pyongyang’s refusal to include two sensitive aspects of its nuclear efforts: uraniumenrichment and proliferation activities.
U.S. officials now say that those two issues will be dealt with in a separate document. They say the United States will write the document instead of the North Koreans, who will simply “acknowledge” the U.S. concerns.
The Yongbyon reactor also must be disabled and eventually dismantled.
“Eight out of 11 agreed disablement activities at the three core facilities have been completed,” the State Department said.
“U.S. experts currently are overseeing the discharge of the spent fuel rods from the reactor. As of mid-May, more than one- third of the spent fuel rods have been discharged successfully,” it said.
Mr. Kim suggested that the North is deliberately slowing the discharging process down to make sure it gets heavy fuel oil and other economic benefits promised by United States and other nations.
The White House, meanwhile, said it is considering ways to send food aid to North Korea. The food situation there worsened this year after a devastating flood last summer. South Korea’s new conservative government stopped sending aid.
“The president thinks that the [North Korean] government is certainly diverting food to the military and not giving it to the people,” press secretary Dana Perino said.
“But outside of politics, the president’s heart hurts when he knows that people are starving, and especially for children, who are maybe trying to go to school.”