US discusses N. Korean move with Russia

Dec. 26, 2002 at 7:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The State Department said Thursday that Washington is consulting the international community on North Korea's decision to move nuclear fuel rods to a nuclear facility near its capital, Pyongyang.

"We are continuing to discuss the situation with other countries," a State Department official told United Press International. "Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, this morning" after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported the North Korean move.

"This was definitely one of the subjects that came up for discussion," said the official.

Powell has remained in touch with foreign ministers of the world's major powers and the countries that could be directly affected by the developments ever since the IAEA first reported Pyongyang's decision to remove monitoring devices from a nuclear reactor.

"We are involved in outgoing discussions with other countries," said the official.

Earlier Thursday, the IAEA called the moving of fuel rods to a nuclear reactor "tantamount to nuclear brinkmanship."

The agency earlier said North Korean technicians had moved some 400 fresh fuel rods out of storage and into a mothballed nuclear facility about 90 kilometers north of Pyongyang. Actually installing them would take at least a day's work and bringing the 5-megawatt Yongbyon reactor online several more weeks after that, nuclear experts said.

Earlier this month North Korea declared it would reactivate its nuclear facilities, saying it needed the energy sources after the United States suspended heavy oil shipments to the famine-stricken country. Washington halted the energy aid after North Korea admitted in October that it was pursuing a program to enrich uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.

"Moving toward restarting its nuclear facilities without appropriate safeguards, and toward producing plutonium raises serious non-proliferation concerns and is tantamount to nuclear brinkmanship," said IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei.

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