BEIJING, July 12 - Six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's
nuclear stand-off will resume on July 18, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on
North Korea agreed in February to mothball its Yongbyon nuclear complex in
exchange for fuel oil.
S.Korea sends oil aid to DPRK
South Korea sent a shipload of oil to North Korea on Thursday, a move
expected to trigger DPRK to shut down its nuclear reactor in a landmark first
step toward dismantling its nuclear program.
The chief UN inspector, Mohamed
ElBaradei, said he expects the agency's monitoring of the shutdown of the
North's Yongbyon reactor will start "early next week" and the initial inspection
is expected to be completed "within a maybe month or so."
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei participates at a special
conference in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the IAEA in Seoul,
South Korea, Thursday, July 12, 2007. [AP]
"I expect that operation to move smoothly," ElBaradei, head of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, said in Seoul of the visit by inspectors to
North Korea expected to begin Saturday. "I am quite optimistic that this is a
good step in the right direction."
A South Korean ship - the 6,750-ton No. 9 Han Chang - departed for North
Korea from the port of Ulsan on South Korea's southeast coast, carrying an
initial batch of 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil being given to the North for its
agreement to shut down Yongbyon.
The ship was expected to arrive Saturday in North Korea's northeastern port
of Sonbong and will take some 48 hours to unload.
North Korea, after refusing to go forward with the accord for months due to a
banking dispute with the US government, strongly hinted last week that it would
undertake the long-delayed shutdown as soon as it receives an initial shipment
of oil aid.
The shipment is part of 50,000 tons promised for the reactor shutdown, and
North Korea would get an additional 950,000 tons of energy aid if it disables
all its nuclear facilities under a February deal with the US, China, Japan,
Russia and South Korea.
If the North shuts down Yongbyon, it would be the first move it has made to
scale back since the nuclear standoff began in late 2002. In the first months of
the crisis, Pyongyang kicked out UN monitors and restarted Yongbyon.
Tensions in the standoff climaxed with the North's first-ever nuclear test in
October last year.
ElBaradei said that beyond these initial moves, the North's eventual entire
abandonment of its nuclear facilities would be a "long process" that would
depend on progress at the six-nation disarmament talks.
"We should not delude ourselves," said ElBaradei, who was attending an
international atomic technology conference in Seoul. "It will take time to have
a comprehensive solution."
On Wednesday, he had said it was unclear when North Korea would actually
switch off the reactor.
South Korean and US officials have said six-nation nuclear talks are expected
to resume in Beijing next week to discuss next steps beyond the reactor
shutdown. However, host China has not made an official announcement yet. The
negotiations were last held in March.
North Korea had refused to honor the shutdown pledge because of a banking
dispute with the US surrounding North Korean funds frozen in a Macau bank
blacklisted by Washington over accusations of money laundering and
counterfeiting. The financial dispute was resolved recently as the US helped
release the funds.