U.S. urges North Korea to give access to UN nuclear watchdog experts
Last week, a deal was struck between the two countries that ensures hundreds of tons of U.S.food aid to the impoverished North in exchange for a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.
The United States urged North Korea on Tuesday to prove it is serious in pledging to roll back its nuclear programs by allowing UN experts back into the country quickly to monitor its commitments.
In comments to an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting, U.S.¬ delegate Robert Wood also said Washington saw last week's agreement as only a first step toward total dismantling of the North's nuclear weapons program.
The deal foresees hundreds of tons of U.S. food aid to the impoverished North in exchange for a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests as well as suspending nuclear work at its Yongbyon reactor.
Addressing the IAEA's 35-nation board, Wood said the world "will be watching closely and assessing how North Korea comports itself in carrying forward ... these commitments."
The deal also opens the way for IAEA inspections of the North's nuclear program, which has gone unmonitored since the country asked agency experts at the Yongbyon reactor to leave and restarted its atomic activities three years ago.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told reporters Monday that there have been no discussions to date with the North on the return of his inspectors and Wood said Washington has urged Pyongyang "to initiate direct contact with the IAEA Secretariat as soon as possible."
Describing the North's commitments as an "initial positive signal," Wood said Washington hopes they will be followed by "substantive and meaningful negotiations on de-nuclearization that addresses the entirety of the North Korean nuclear program."
"This would include all nuclear activities ... including all aspects of its uranium enrichment program and light-water reactor construction activities," he said in remarks to the closed meeting made available to reporters.
Washington has said that better inter-Korean ties are crucial to the success of nuclear diplomacy, and Wood alluded to that, saying the United States was looking for the North "to pursue sustained dialogue" with South Korea.
North Korea faces tough U.N. sanctions that were tightened in 2009 when it conducted its second nuclear test and launched a long-range rocket. In late 2010, Pyongyang unveiled a uranium enrichment facility that could give North Korea a second route to manufacture nuclear weapons in addition to a plutonium-based program at its reactor.