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IAEA Calls on North Korea to Scrap Nuclear Arsenal - 2004-09-24

The International Atomic Energy Agency has called on North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons ambitions and give inspectors entry visas so they can supervise a return to peaceful activities.

North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors who were watching the reactivation of a large reprocessing plant at its Yongbyon reactor almost two years ago. The reactor is capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons but the IAEA says North Korea can have no peaceful use for plutonium.

The IAEA annual general conference passed a resolution Friday calling on Pyongyang to dismantle any nuclear weapons it may have and open up nuclear facilities for inspection.

Japan told the IAEA conference that Pyongyang's cooperation with the IAEA is essential for securing peace in Northeast Asia. The United States believes North Korea has atomic weapons and is concerned that a recent explosion could have been a nuclear test.

But Gary Samore, a former U.S. security official and head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, doubts that North Korea would use an atomic bomb.

"North Korea has a very well developed nuclear weapons program so from that standpoint no doubt its extremely serious in the sense that in all likelihood they've crossed the nuclear threshold," Mr. Samore said. "But in terms of the kind of threat they pose for use, I think it's probably pretty low."

Mr. Samore says North Korea knows using nuclear weapons would be suicidal and believes their main purpose is defense and to protect the Pyongyang government from outside pressure.

The IAEA general conference consists of delegates from 137 countries but has no authority to enforce its resolutions. The IAEA reported the communist state to the United Nations Security Council in 2003 which took no action, preferring to let the six-party talks including China and the United States handle the problem.