IAEA: No indication of halt in North Korea’s nuclear programme

The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it hasn’t seen any indication that North Korea’s nuclear activities have ceased despite pledges to denuclearise and it’s causing “grave concern”.

A new report published late on Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) listed ongoing efforts at various nuclear facilities, including the Yongbyon power plant that is believed to produce plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapon tests.

Construction of a possible additional reprocessing plant that could extract plutonium from used reactor fuel has continued, according to the report.

The IAEA said it has been monitoring a site near the capital, Pyongyang, whose characteristics and construction history “are not inconsistent with a centrifuge enrichment facility”. Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear warheads.

“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear programme and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in the report, referring to North Korea’s official name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang didn’t immediately respond to the report.

Trump-Kim deal

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to work towards a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula when he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and US President Donald Trump in June.

Trump said in an interview with the Reuters news agency on Monday he believed North Korea had taken specific steps towards denuclearisation and he would “most likely” meet again with Kim.

However, Pyongyang has given no indication it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally as the Trump administration has demanded.

IAEA inspectors are not allowed into North Korea, but they have been monitoring the country via satellites and other available information.

Dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme and verifying it would be an enormous and complex task. The IAEA has said it is best placed to verify a deal. 

Monday’s report is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.

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