- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SEOUL | North Korea ordered U.N. inspectors to leave Tuesday after saying it would quit international nuclear-disarmament talks and restart a plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium, the United Nations said.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned North Korea's rocket launch this month as contravening a U.N. ban and demanded enforcement of existing sanctions.

North Korea said the U.N. action and separate six-country nuclear talks were infringements of its sovereignty and it “will never participate in the [nuclear] talks any longer, nor … be bound to any agreement.”

The statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said North Korea would “bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way.”

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said North Korea had ordered U.N. inspectors to leave the reclusive communist country.

“[North Korea] has today informed IAEA inspectors in the Yongbyon facility that it is immediately ceasing all cooperation,” IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said in a statement issued in Vienna, Austria.

On the other side of the border, South Korea is expected to announce as early as Wednesday plans to curtail the North's suspected trade in weapons of mass destruction, further raising tensions with Pyongyang.

South Korea is poised to reveal that it will soon join U.S.-led interception of shipments suspected of carrying parts or equipment for weapons of mass destruction. Pyongyang has said such an action would be considered a declaration of war.

The plan, called the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and joined by 94 countries, would let South Korea stop and board North Korean ships sailing in its territorial waters when suspected of carrying arms or other illicit materials.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said: “North Korea will not find acceptance by the international community unless it verifiably abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

North Korea began taking apart its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant more than a year ago as a part of a disarmament-for-aid deal it reached with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The United States, Japan and Russia have urged North Korea to return to the often-stalled nuclear talks. But China, which shares a border with North Korea and is the closest thing Pyongyang can claim as a major ally, called on all parties to “pay attention to the broader picture” and exercise “calm and restraint.”

Analysts said the North could have its plant that separates plutonium from spent fuel rods up and running again in as little as three months.

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