The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has shut down its only active nuclear reactor, and is ready to start disabling its nuclear programs if the US lifts all sanctions against it, a DPRK diplomat said yesterday.
Kim Myong-gil, minister at the DPRK mission to the UN, confirmed that the reactor at Yongbyon was shut down on Saturday after receiving an oil shipment from the Republic of Korea (ROK).
"Immediately after the arrival of the first heavy fuel oil (shipment), the facilities were shut down and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel will verify that," Kim said.
Chinese experts welcomed the development, saying the DPRK's move is a big step toward finding a lasting solution to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
"It is heartening to see the parties implement the February 13 accord in a phased manner and in line with the principle of 'commitment for commitment and action for action'," said Liu Jiangyong, a researcher with Tsinghua University.
This will enhance mutual understanding and take the six-party talks forward, he said.
The shutting down of the reactor, however, is just the first step, Liu said. The flow of the rest of the operation depends very much on the progress of the six-nation talks.
Five years after IAEA inspectors were expelled from the DPRK, a 10-member team of the UN nuclear watchdog reached Pyongyang on Saturday to make sure the reactor in Yongbyon, about 100 km north of the capital, was switched off.
Kim also raised hopes of further progress on disarmament, saying the next steps will include the DPRK making a declaration on its nuclear program and disabling the facilities.
But he said the moves would come only if Washington took "parallel" action, including lifting wider economic sanctions against Pyongyang and removing the country from its list of "states that sponsor terrorism".
"After the shutdown, we will discuss the lifting of economic sanctions and removal from the terrorism list. All those things should be discussed and resolved," Kim said.
In a statement, the DPRK Foreign Ministry said progress on disarmament would depend on "what practical measures the US and Japan, in particular, will take to roll back their hostile policies toward" Pyongyang.
The oil the DPRK got on Saturday was an initial 6,200 tons of a total of 50,000 tons in exchange for shutting down the reactor. Under the February 13 agreement at the six-party talks, Pyongyang will get a total equivalent to one million tons of oil for dismantling its nuclear programs.
The ministry said the DPRK began shutting down its nuclear reactor even before receiving the shipment of oil. That was "a manifestation of its good faith toward the agreement," according to the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The main US envoy at the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has said he believes the disablement of the nuclear facilities could be completed by the end of the year.
Hill was touring the region before the six-party talks, scheduled to resume in Beijing on Wednesday.
The ROK's nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo called the shutting down of the Yongbyon reactor a "milestone", and said that the resumed talks would be held "in a better atmosphere than ever before."
(China Daily via agencies July 16, 2007)