SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Wednesday it was moving briskly ahead with the construction of an experimental light-water reactor and uranium enrichment, and that it was willing to prove the peaceful nature of its programme through the U.N. nuclear agency.
North Korea has called for the resumption of international talks aimed at compensating it in return for giving up its nuclear weapons programme but the United States and South Korea have demanded Pyongyang’s action to implement disarmament steps.
“The construction of experimental LWR (light-water reactor) and the low enrichment uranium for the provision of raw materials are progressing apace,” the North’s Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by official KCNA news agency as saying.
It renewed a call for the resumption of the six-way nuclear talks and said “it can convince the world of the peaceful nature of those activities through the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying.
The talks — involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia — broke down in 2008 when the North rejected a demand by the South and the United States for intrusive inspections to verify steps under a 2005 disarmament accord.
In Vienna on Wednesday, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the U.N. nuclear agency was “ready to resume its verification activities in the DPRK (North Korea) as soon as there is agreement to this end by the Six Parties.”
U.N. inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009, but IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Reuters earlier this year that they could return “quite quickly” once the parties in the dispute reached an understanding on the issue.
Analysts have voiced doubt, however, that the North would grant the U.N. agency full access to its nuclear facilities.
Negotiators from the North and the United States met last month for discussions aimed at seeking a way back into the talks with U.S. officials reporting progress but there was no breakthrough on resuming the stalled negotiations.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-il repeated his call for the resumption of the talks last month.
Uranium enrichment would give the North a second path to make an atomic bomb along with its plutonium programme.
Analysts believe the 2005 disarmament deal remains vague on the North’s obligations regarding uranium in a potential loophole that Pyongyang would use to push ahead with it.
A U.S. expert, Siegfried Hecker, was said to have been “stunned” after a visit to the North last year and a tour of an uranium enrichment facility which he described as sophisticated.
Reporting by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Maria Golovnina