The International Atomic Energy Agency has no plans to accept an invitation to send inspectors to North Korea, the Associated Press reported on Monday (see GSN, June 1).
North Korea's April attempt to fire a satellite into space via a long-range rocket ended any "immediate prospect of an agency mission taking place," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said as the U.N. agency's Board of Governors began its latest meeting on Monday. The U.N. Security Council condemned the unsuccessful rocket launch as a violation of council mandates that prohibit the North from using ballistic missile technology.
The North extended the invite in March. However, the U.N. nuclear watchdog in mid-April signaled it did not anticipate sending inspectors to the isolated country after Pyongyang announced it was withdrawing from a nuclear rollback deal struck with the United States. The now-abandoned agreement would have allotted North Korea 240,000 metric tons of U.S. nutritional assistance in exchange for its IAEA-monitored halt of uranium enrichment at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and a moratorium on new nuclear and long-range missile tests (Associated Press I/Boston Globe, June 4).
"Since an attempt by the D.P.R.K. (North Korea) to launch a 'satellite', the agency has been carefully monitoring the situation," Reuters quoted Amano as telling the board in Vienna, Austria. "Through recent contacts with the D.P.R.K., it has become clear that there is no immediate prospect of an agency mission taking place" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, June 4).
Meanwhile, the United States, Japan and South Korea on Saturday pledged to deepen three-way military collaboration to discourage the North from mounting new hostilities, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The trilateral concurrence was reached by senior defense officials from the three countries on the margins of the yearly Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
"The three ministers concurred that North Korea's continued provocations including its sinking of the R.O.K. (South Korea) corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, and its missile launch in April 2012, pose a serious threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia, and the world," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Japanese Senior Vice Defense Minister Shu Watanabe, and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said in a collective statement.
"North Korea needs to understand that it will achieve nothing by threats or by provocations, and that such behavior will only deepen its international isolation," the officials said.
Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington renewed their calls for Pyongyang to adhere to Security Council resolutions that prohibit it from nuclear weapons development.
The North is broadly observed to be readying for a possible third atomic test, having carried out previous underground nuclear detonations in 2006 and 2009. The Security Council has signaled that the North would be punished for conducting another test.
"[The ministers] welcomed that the Security Council made clear its determination to take action in the event of a further North Korean launch or nuclear test. The ministers reaffirmed that North Korea's provocative behavior threatens all three countries and will be met with solidarity from all three countries. They agreed to continue to reinforce trilateral policy coordination in order to deter North Korean provocations," reads the statement (Yonhap News Agency I, June 2).
Separately, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was expected during a trip to North Korea this week to urge the regime to return to a long-paralyzed aid-for-denuclearization process, AP reported, citing the minister's spokesman.
The six-party nuclear talks encompass China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia, and the United States. Negotiations have not been held since December 2008.
North Korean diplomats are slated to participate in a July regional forum in Cambodia (Associated Press II/Fox News, June 3).
Elsewhere, a prominent Chinese newspaper has called on the government in Beijing to push back against Pyongyang's recent assertion through its constitution of its distinction as a nuclear power, Yonhap reported.
A Saturday editorial in the Global Times, which is published by the Communist Party-managed People's Daily, said accepting official status for North Korea's nuclear weapons program could cause Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea to pursue similar deterrents of their own.
The United States and South Korea have already roundly rejected North Korea's claim to nuclear power status, while Beijing has yet to offer a formal response.
"China should not join the two (Seoul and Washington) and help them exert pressure on North Korea. However, it is also necessary for China to criticize North Korea's latest move and oppose its intention to legalize its nuclear status," the posted editorial said. "China needs to make efforts to deter North Korea from possessing nuclear capabilities, or at least openly oppose North Korea's move to attain them."
The Global Times said China must not allow itself to be manipulated by the North. "At the moment, the most urgent thing is to prevent North Korea from conducting a third nuclear test, the consequences of which would be unimaginable for Northeast Asia. Besides trying to persuade North Korea, China should publicly voice its opposition at once" (Yonhap News Agency II, June 3).
The International Atomic Energy Agency has no plans to accept an invitation to send inspectors to North Korea, the Associated Press reported on Monday.