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IAEA:  Inspectors Must Stay in North Korea - 2002-12-27

The International Atomic Energy Agency has asked North Korea to allow its inspectors to stay in the country and monitor activities at the Yonbyon nuclear reactor.

The IAEA director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, issued a statement Friday insisting that the inspectors are needed to monitor the reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Mr. ElBaradei said the inspectors need to reinstall monitoring equipment North Korea has removed or disabled in recent weeks.

He says that without the inspectors and the monitoring equipment, the IAEA's ability to monitor North Korea's nuclear program would be virtually eliminated.

The Yongbyon plant can produce plutonium used in making nuclear weapons. Mr. Elbaradei has said North Korea has "no current legitimate peaceful use for plutonium."

The IAEA director-general called on the North Koreans to allow the agency to carry on unimpeded with its monitoring. Failing that, he asks for immediate notification so that arrangements can be made for the departure of the inspectors.

The chief spokesperson for the IAEA, Melissa Fleming, said that recent developments are cause for considerable concern.

"It is indeed serious and we have been saying that today," she said. "What we said was that this is one further step away from the possibility of defusing the crisis and certainly we would say this is of deep concern."

On Thursday, the IAEA accused North Korea of engaging in "nuclear brinksmanship," and called the situation there "very worrying."