NAPSNet Daily Report
thursday, december 26, 2002

I. United States


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I. United States

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1. DPRK Fuel Rods

The Associated Press (Paul Shin, "NORTH KOREA BEGINS MOVING FUEL RODS INTO NUCLEAR REACTOR," Seoul, 12/26/02) and Reuters (Louis Charbonneau, "N.KOREA MOVING FRESH FUEL TO NUCLEAR PLANT," Vienna, 12/25/02) reported that the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Wednesday that the DPRK had moved fresh fuel to a reactor which the US says must stay mothballed because it can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. The announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) heightens a tense international confrontation that has followed the breakdown of an eight-year-old agreement restricting the DPRK's nuclear program. The DPRK's defense minister on Tuesday accused Washington of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. "We had noticed yesterday that they were carrying out work at the five megawatt reactor in Yongbyon," IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told Reuters. "And we noticed that they were moving fresh fuel to the reactor." He added that North Korean technicians had broken most of the seals and disabled UN surveillance devices at all four nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. The cameras had been monitoring the DPRK's compliance with a 1994 shutdown of the plants. "North Korea estimates that (the five megawatt reactor) could be up and running in one to two months," he said, adding that the UN agency believed it would take longer. The IAEA is also worried about the plutonium storage and reprocessing facilities at the Yongbyon complex. A storage pond there holds some 8,000 spent irradiated fuel rods which contain large amounts of plutonium. "The reprocessing plant could have absolutely no civilian use for North Korea," Gwozdecky said. But he said no work was being done at the plant, capable of separating plutonium from other substances in the spent fuel.

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2. DPRK US Warning

The New York Times (Howard W. French, "US GETS WARNING FROM NORTH KOREA," Seoul, 12/25/02) reported that the DPRK warned today of an "uncontrollable catastrophe" unless the US agrees to a negotiated solution to a tense standoff over its nuclear energy and weapons programs. The statement, made amid mounting tensions with the US, came as a stiff pre-emptive rebuff to a conciliation-minded newly elected president in the ROK, and a warning to other countries that their efforts to mediate the crisis will be futile. "There is no need for any third party to meddle in the nuclear issue on the peninsula," said the DPRK's ruling-party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun. "The issue should be settled between the DPRK and the US, the parties responsible for it. If the US persistently tries to internationalize the pending issue between the DPRK and the US in a bid to flee from its responsibility, it will push the situation to an uncontrollable catastrophe." The DPRK defense minister, Kim Il Chol, went further, warning of "merciless punishment" to the US if it pursued a confrontational approach to the emerging nuclear crisis. "The US hawks are arrogant enough to groundlessly claim that the DPRK has pushed ahead with a 'nuclear program,' bringing its hostile policy toward the DPRK to an extremely dangerous phase," the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying.

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3. DPRK-US Nuclear Relations

The Associated Press (Christopher Torchia, "NORTH KOREA SAYS US PUSHING REGION TOWARD NUCLEAR WAR AS DISPUTE HEATS UP," Seoul, 12/25/02) reported that the DPRK issued a fiery warning that US policy was leading the region to the "brink of nuclear war" and took steps toward restarting reactors that the US fears could be used to make nuclear weapons. Though there were no new activities at the reprocessing lab or the fuel rod factory early Wednesday, the ROK news agency Yonhap said "North Koreans are freely moving in and out of the unsealed nuclear reactor." US officials said they suspected the DPRK was trying to goad the US back to the negotiating table after President George W. Bush cut off oil shipments to the energy-starved nation. US officials have demanded the DPRK immediately end its atomic weapons program. The DPRK's defense minister, Kim Il Chol, said in a report on the Korean Central News Agency, that "US hawks" were "pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war." Alarming US officials, the DPRK has swiftly taken steps toward a possible reactivation of nuclear facilities that experts believe were used to make one or two weapons in the 1990s. The DPRK will need "a month or two" to make their Soviet-designed, 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon operational, said Mark Gwozdecky, chief spokesman at the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Quoting an unidentified government official, Yonhap said Wednesday the IAEA had increased the number of its inspectors at the DPRK facilities from two to three. The report could not be immediately confirmed. On Tuesday, the DPRK removed UN seals and surveillance cameras from a fourth nuclear facility, including a reprocessing facility that produces weapons-grade plutonium. The move disturbed US officials who say the DPRK has no use for plutonium other than trying to build a nuclear bomb. There are 8,000 spent fuel rods at the facility, enough to make several atomic bombs within months. Gwozdecky said it did not appear that the DPRK had removed any rods from the facility.

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4. ROK on DPRK Nuclear Situation

The Associated Press (Paul Shin, "NORTH KOREA BEGINS MOVING FUEL RODS INTO NUCLEAR REACTOR," Seoul, 12/26/02) and the Associated Press (Paul Shin, "S. KOREA PROTESTS NORTH'S NUCLEAR MOVES," Seoul, 12/25/02 reported that the ROK's outgoing president said Thursday that his nation would never tolerate the DPRK's efforts to develop nuclear weapons, as the DPRK began moving fresh fuel rods into a mothballed nuclear reactor. President Kim Dae-jung told a special Cabinet meeting that the standoff should be resolved through dialogue, however, despite deepening concerns that the DPRK will restart facilities that experts say could produce nuclear weapons within months. "We can never go along with North Korea's nuclear weapons development," Kim said in remarks released to the press by his spokeswoman, Park Sun-sook. "We must closely cooperate with the US, Japan and other friendly countries to prevent the situation from further deteriorating into a crisis." The DPRK has moved 1,000 fresh fuel rods to a storage facility at its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, 50 miles north of the capital - its latest step toward reactivating the facility in defiance of the UN nuclear watchdog and the US. The DPRK insisted Thursday that it was a "peace-loving" nation and is restarting the plant only to generate electricity, a claim rejected by the US. Experts say that with plutonium from the facility, the DPRK could produce nuclear weapons within months. The new fuel rods have not yet been loaded into the reactor core at Yongbyon, said Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency. He estimated that it would take "at least a month and maybe several months" to restart the 5-megawatt reactor, which has been mothballed since 1994. In the past week, North Korea removed UN monitoring seals and cameras from its nuclear facilities, ignoring IAEA warnings. Among the facilities stripped of surveillance equipment was a plant for reprocessing spent fuel rods - a process that produces plutonium - and a storage room with 8,000 such rods. US and IAEA officials say the 8,000 spent rods hold enough weapons-grade plutonium to make several nuclear bombs. The director of the Vienna-based IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Thursday that the DPRK was moving to restart the reprocessing facility, which he said was "irrelevant" to generating electricity. In a statement, ElBaradei said that the DPRK has no "legitimate peaceful use for plutonium." "Moving toward restarting its nuclear facilities without appropriate safeguards, and toward producing plutonium raises serious nonproliferation concerns and is tantamount to nuclear brinkmanship," ElBaradei said.

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5. Russia on DPRK Nuclear Situation

The Associated Press ("RUSSIA CALLS ON NORTH KOREA TO COOPERATE WITH UN NUCLEAR WATCHDOG," Moscow, 12/25/02) reported that Russia called on the DPRK on Wednesday to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to resolve the growing crisis around the DPRK's nuclear program. In an interview with the ITAR-Tass news agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said that "the situation around the DPRK's nuclear program worries Russia, as it negatively affects the situation on the Korean Peninsula." "In these conditions, Pyongyang's cooperation with the IAEA takes on special significance. We call on the DPRK to cooperate with the agency," Losyukov said. Losyukov said that the IAEA must analyze the situation at Yongbyon, saying that course of action would prevent "conflicts and emotional outbursts," ITAR-Tass reported. He said that sanctions must not be imposed against the DPRK. In recent days, Losyukov and his colleague, Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov, have accused the US of taking a bellicose approach to the DPRK, as well as to Iraq and Iran, the three countries that US President George W. Bush has termed the "axis of evil."

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6. Rumsfeld on DPRK

New York Daily News (Helen Kennedy, "RUMSFELD GOES ON THE WARPATH," Washington, 12/24/02) reported that as nuclear tensions grew sharply yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a blunt warning to the DPRK: America can fight simultaneous wars with Iraq and the DPRK. "We are capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other," he said. "Let there be no doubt about it." Delivering a vehement verbal attack on the "idiotic" leaders of the DPRK, Rumsfeld warned the DPRK against seizing on America's focus on Iraq to press a nuclear weapons program. "If they do, it would be a mistake," he said. Rumsfeld stressed that no military action to halt Pyongyang's renewed nuclear ambitions was imminent. Rumsfeld stated, "Their power grid couldn't even absorb that! If you look at a picture from the sky of the Korean Peninsula at night, South Korea is filled with lights and energy and vitality and a booming economy. North Korea is dark. It is a tragedy what's being done in that country," he said. Secretary of State Powell consulted with France, Russia, Britain, Japan, the PRC and ROK as tensions mounted, said State Department spokesman Phil Reeker. "North Korea's actions over the past three days raise serious concerns," Reeker said. "Everyone in the international community is seized with the issue and will be following it very closely." The DPRK said the "nuclear issue" could be settled if the US signs a nonaggression treaty with it. "We will not give in to blackmail," Reeker said. "We're not going to bargain or offer inducements for North Korea to live up to the treaties and agreements that it has signed."

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7. DPRK Nuclear Inspection Allowance

The Associated Press (Christopher Torchia, "N. KOREA ALLOWS MORE NUCLEAR INSPECTORS," Seoul, 12/25/02) reported that the DPRK has let a UN watchdog agency send more inspectors to its nuclear facilities, even as communist engineers move freely around a reactor in violation of arms control agreements, officials in the ROK said Wednesday. The DPRK's willingness to publicly flout its international commitments suggests it is trying to force itself onto the US' agenda to win an oft-stated goal: talks with its longtime foe about a non-aggression treaty. Possibly as part of that strategy, the DPRK has stepped up its anti-American rhetoric in recent days, warning that US policy was leading the region to the "brink of nuclear war." The Bush administration, however, has rejected negotiations with the DPRK unless it abandons nuclear activities and says the DPRK's moves to reactivate the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon amount to blackmail. The standoff has raised fears of another nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency increased the number of inspectors at the Yongbyon reactor from two to three since the DPRK began removing UN seals and disabling surveillance cameras at facilities this week, ROK officials said. "The organization took the step to strengthen eye checks of nuclear facilities," Chon Young-woo, a Foreign Ministry official, was quoted as saying by The Korea Times, an ROK newspaper. An IAEA spokesman at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, could not be reached for comment. Chon said that the inspectors were conducting daily checks without interference from DPRK authorities.

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Produced by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development in partnership with:

Ilmin Internationl Relations Institute
BK21 The Education and Research Corps for East Asian Studies
Department of Political Science, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Center for American Studies,
Fudan University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China

International Peace Research Institute (PRIME),
Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Monash Asia Institute,
Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Brandon Yu:
Berkeley, California, United States

Timothy L. Savage:
Berkeley, California, United States

Kim Young-soo:
Seoul, Republic of Korea

Hibiki Yamaguchi:
Tokyo, Japan

Saiko Iwata:
Tokyo, Japan

Hiroya Takagi:
Tokyo, Japan

Peter Razvin:
Moscow, Russian Federation

Wu Chunsi:
Shanghai, People's Republic of China

Dingli Shen:
Shanghai, People's Republic of China

John McKay:
Clayton, Australia

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