Seoul – UN nuclear inspectors left North Korea Thursday after the hardline communist state ordered them out and announced plans to restart production of weapons-grade plutonium.
The inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Beijing but declined to comment to reporters.
A separate four-member US team which had been monitoring the North’s disablement of its Yongbyon nuclear complex was also preparing to leave after being ordered out, the State Department said.
The complex produced enough plutonium for a 2006 nuclear test and for several other bombs until it was shut down in 2007 under a six-nation disarmament deal.
Pyongyang, angry at UN censure of its rocket launch this month, announced Tuesday it was scrapping the deal, would reopen the plants to build up its nuclear deterrent and said the UN inspectors should leave.
They removed their seals from equipment and rooms before going.
The IAEA said in Vienna that four of its inspectors pulled out — two who were already posted at Yongbyon and another two who had arrived in Pyongyang in preparation for taking over at the complex.
“It’s a step backward. We’re obviously concerned about this,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Wednesday, referring to North Korea’s planned expulsion of the US monitors.
“They (North Korea) just bring upon themselves further isolation from the international community.”
Wood said the United States would speak with other nations in the talks — China, Japan, South Korea and Russia — about the next step.
North Korea has previously threatened to quit the talks, which began in 2003 and several times came close to collapse.
But its Tuesday statement announced it would “never” take part in such discussions again and was no longer bound by any six-party agreements.
Pyongyang appears to be pushing instead for bilateral talks with the United States, analysts say.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States and its negotiating partners were “anxious for the North Koreans to come back to the table.”
In Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il Wednesday watched a fireworks display marking the anniversary of the birth of his late father and founding president Kim Il-Sung.
He “warmly greeted” the cheering crowd that gathered along the Taedong River to mark the occasion, official media said.
State media have trumpeted Kim’s “incomparable courage and boldness” in going ahead with the much criticised April 5 rocket launch, which Pyongyang says was staged to put a peaceful satellite into orbit.
The United States and its allies say the launch was a disguised missile test. The Security Council in a statement Monday condemned the launch as violating a resolution passed after the North’s 2006 missile and nuclear tests.
It vowed tougher enforcement of sanctions contained in the 2006 resolution.
The United States and Japan on Wednesday submitted lists of North Korean entities targeted for sanctions, according to the Turkish diplomat chairing the first meeting of the Security Council’s sanctions panel.
Diplomats said the US submitted a list of 11 North Korean entities involved in banned missile-related activities, while Japan put forward a list of at least 15.
South Korea, apparently mindful of increasing tensions, delayed a widely expected announcement that it would join a US-led initiative to seize international shipments of weapons of mass destruction such as missiles.
North Korea has said any decision by Seoul to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) would be seen as a declaration of war.
China suggested Wednesday the time was not right for Seoul to sign up.
“The current situation is already too complex and China doesn’t want it to become further complicated,” its ambassador to Seoul, Cheng Yonghua, told a lecture when asked how Beijing views Seoul’s move to join the PSI.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH TITLE 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107, THIS MATERIAL IS DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT PROFIT TO THOSE WHO HAVE EXPRESSED A PRIOR INTEREST IN RECEIVING THE INCLUDED INFORMATION FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. TRUTHOUT HAS NO AFFILIATION WHATSOEVER WITH THE ORIGINATOR OF THIS ARTICLE NOR IS TRUTHOUT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY THE ORIGINATOR.
“VIEW SOURCE ARTICLE” LINKS ARE PROVIDED AS A CONVENIENCE TO OUR READERS AND ALLOW FOR VERIFICATION OF AUTHENTICITY. HOWEVER, AS ORIGINATING PAGES ARE OFTEN UPDATED BY THEIR ORIGINATING HOST SITES, THE VERSIONS POSTED ON TO MAY NOT MATCH THE VERSIONS OUR READERS VIEW WHEN CLICKING THE “VIEW SOURCE ARTICLE” LINKS.