- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

VIENNA, Feb. 12 (UPI) — The International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors Wednesday declared North Korea in "non-compliance with its obligations" under the Safeguards Agreement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible action.

Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, said North Korea brought the action on itself because, of the outstanding issues, "none of the other issues could be addressed by way of blackmail. The first step has to be a compliance with nonproliferation obligations and then all the other solutions will follow."

What action might be taken was not immediately known, although sanctions have been widely mentioned. What type was another problem considering the Stalinist state's dire economic strait.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, this month's president of the council, said he had not received the official notification, but as soon as he did he would consult with members of the panel to decide when to take the issue up.

Ambassador Richard Williamson, U.S. alternate representative for special political affairs at the United Nations, said of the IAEA board's decision, "The United States first feels that this should be dealt with diplomatically and we're confident we can deal with this issue diplomatically and we are pleased that the IAEA board of governors referred it to (the council in) New York and we'll be taking it up as soon as we can but we have a few other issues right now."

He added, "China was among those who voted for the resolution."

Since there were only two abstentions, Russia and China, among the 35 board members, "it was a broadly felt position and we'll be looking forward to dealing with it and talking about it here," Williamson told reporters outside the council's chambers at U.N. world headquarters in New York.

Asked if there were still efforts to talk with Pyongyang, he said, "We have been and continue to talk to people throughout the region."

He added, "We're not going to make any comments yet on what we are going to do in New York but we are glad it's coming here."

The Vienna action was not unexpected.

North Korea, "has been in chronic non compliance with its safeguard obligations since 1993 when it barred the agency access when we believed what was plutonium that was produced in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and not declared to us, and since 1994 with the conclusion of the agreed framework between the USA and North Korea," ElBaradei told reporters in Vienna, after the board's decision, explaining that North Korea "sought shelter" behind the agreement "to delay and circumvent its compliance with its safeguard agreement.

"The situation, however, was aggravated during Christmas-time during a request for reports of undeclared enrichment program, (when North Korea was) cutting all seals and disabling the inspectors cameras and then order our inspectors to leave," said ElBaradei. That was in no way in compliance with their safeguard obligations."

His "repeated efforts in so many different ways to engage the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea went in vain," the head of the agency said. North Korea "declared the resolution of the board was unjust and two days after decided to withdraw from the NPT with instant effect as of Jan. 11," despite the fact withdrawal from the accord requires three month notice.

Said ElBaradei, "The current situation clearly sets a dangerous precedent Because what we are trying to do is make sure in fact the NPT becomes universal in character rather than open the door for countries to walk away from non-proliferation and arms control obligations.

"It is very important that the international community deals with all cases of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations in a consistent fashion," he added. "Whether it's in Iraq or it's in North Korea, cases of non-compliance with non-proliferation must be addressed with the same approach, zero tolerance."

However, ElBaradei saw "an increasing readiness to respond positively to the humanitarian and economic needs of North Korea."

The contentious consequence of sending the issue to the Security Council is the specter of sanctions, which the United Nations has imposed before on North Korea for its nuclear programs. Since the 1993 crisis, the isolated country's economy is more fragile than ever and estimated millions of its citizens starved during a famine in the mid-1990s. It is currently in the midst of an unusually harsh winter.

Just hours before the IAEA announcement, the European Union's foreign policy chief declared during a visit to Seoul, South Korea, his alliance opposed sanctions.

"I don't think it is the moment to do sanctions," said Javier Solana. "I do think that sanctions will contribute to the opposite of what we wish to obtain — the defusing of the crisis."

He then added, "Whatever is done (in the Security Council), it should not contribute to escalation (of the crisis). It should contribute to de-escalation."

North Korea has warned it would view any sanctions as tantamount to "a declaration of war" and no longer recognize the council.

Last October, the United States announced it had presented North Korea with evidence it was pursuing a program to enrich uranium, a critical first step to developing nuclear weapons. As a result, the Bush administration cut off heavy-fuel shipments it had agreed in 1994 to supply Pyongyang until the international community finished building North Korea two light-water reactors. In return for the shipments and reactors, the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il agreed to shut down another nuclear program, one that could lead to plutonium-based nuclear weapons.

In December, North Korea removed monitoring devices for that mothballed program and asked IAEA inspectors to leave the country. Satellite imagery and other evidence indicates North Korea has since restarted its plutonium program — specifically a reactor at the Yongbyong research site that Pyongyang says is for electricity to replace the fuel oil shipments. That reactor is less than one-tenth the size that nuclear experts say will generate a practical amount of electricity, however.

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(With reporting by William M. Reilly at the United Nations)

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