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27 February 2024

North Korea opens nuclear reactor to foreign media

By Agencies

North Korea opened its main nuclear reactor to foreign media for the first time on Friday in a bid to show that it is complying with a disarmament accord to disable the facility.


Broadcaster APTN was permitted to visit the reactor facility in Yongbyon, the heart of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Its footage showed North Korean workers in white head-to-toe protective suits removing spent nuclear fuel from the facility’s five megawatt reactor.


The visit came as six-nation negotiations on the nuclear dispute are stalled over differences on whether North Korea has fully declared its nuclear programs under an October accord reached with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.


At the site, a senior Yongbyon official reiterated the government’s position that it is disabling the reactor as promised in the disarmament-for-aid deal, but that it has slowed down its compliance because the other countries were not meeting their commitments.


“It has been slowed down. Especially the discharge of fuel rods from the core has been slowed down,” Yu Sun Chol, Yongbyon’s chief engineer, told APTN.


“We think the main reason for that is that the United States and other six-party countries, they have not fulfilled their commitments for the agreement of the six-party talks,” he said.


The October deal, along with a February 2007 agreement, call for North Korea to disable the reactor and other facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid and other concessions. For its part, Washington has promised to consider removing North Korea from terrorism and economic sanctions blacklists.


North Korea claims it gave the US a full accounting of its nuclear programs in November, but Washington says the North never produced a “complete and correct” list.


APTN footage showed partially dismantled facilities around Yongbyon, a complex 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, which houses North Korea’s sole working reactor and plants to process nuclear fuel.


Also shown inside the reactor building was a red-and-white slogan reading: “Let’s safeguard Dear General Kim Jong Il with our lives,” referring to the leader of the communist nation. Photos of Kim and his late father and national founder Kim Il Sung hung on the wall of the reactor’s control room. (AP)