SEOUL - The head of the UN's atomic watchdog agency said Thursday he expects
the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear reactor to go smoothly.
International Atomic Energy Agency
inspectors are likely to arrive Saturday to monitor the shutdown of the Yongbyon
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei
arrives to attend a conference at the Incheon International Airport, west
of Seoul. [Agencies]
"I expect that operation to move smoothly. We already have an agreement on
how to go about it," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a press conference.
A preparatory IAEA mission visited North Korea last month to discuss
arrangements for the monitoring mission.
"I am quite optimistic. This is a good step in the right direction," the IAEA
But he cautioned that full denuclearisation is "going to be a long process...
it will take time to have a comprehensive solution."
North Korea has said it will consider shutting Yongbyon as soon as it
receives a first shipment of compensatory fuel oil from South Korea. The
shipment was due to leave later Thursday and arrive in the North Saturday.
The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, who have been
meeting since 2003 to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear programmes,
reached a deal in February.
Under the pact the energy-starved North will receive one million tons of fuel
oil or equivalent aid, plus major diplomatic benefits and security guarantees,
if it declares and dismantles all nuclear programmes.
Yongbyon's closure, to be rewarded with an initial 50,000 tons of oil from
South Korea, is the first step.
ElBaradei said the second step would depend on the outcome of six-party
talks, which are expected in Beijing next week.
"I hope all six parties make every effort to reach a comprehensive
settlement," he said, expressing hope also that North Korea would eventually
return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He said a nuclear settlement would be "good for the DPRK (North Korea), good
for Asia and for the international community."