Defiant North Korea completes cover-up

DEFYING international agreements, North Korea has almost completed the removal of 8,000 fuel rods from an experimental nuclear reactor, leaving the rest of the world divided on how to respond.

David Kyd, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the spent fuel is in a cooling tank monitored by two agency inspectors. There was no sign that the North Koreans had any immediate plans to take away the material, but he added: 'Weeks or months - that is a different matter.' It is estimated that after reprocessing, the spent fuel could yield enough plutonium for three or four nuclear weapons.

Of more immediate concern, however, is that the inspectors have been prevented from taking samples to determine how much plutonium has been diverted in the past. The North Koreans admit to having produced a small amount, but the IAEA has evidence that more is being concealed - enough, it is believed, for one or two nuclear devices.

'That historical record is now lost,' a Western diplomat said yesterday. 'There is no way of reconstructing it. North Korea has violated the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the only question now is how we react.'

Apart from extinguishing any hope that Kim Il Sung's unpredictable Stalinist regime might finally comply with the treaty to the satisfaction of the IAEA, the unsupervised discharge of the reactor has made it clear that Pyongyang will proceed with its nuclear programme whatever the inducements on offer. Last year the United States held two rounds of direct talks with North Korea in which it offered help to rescue the country's collapsing economy and held out the possibility of diplomatic recognition if the North would stop trying to develop nuclear weapons.

'They were offered a perfectly decent fall-back,' said the diplomat, 'but they chose to sacrifice a third round of talks which was virtually within their grasp. The US was prepared to meet nearly all their conditions, but instead they chose to de-fuel.' Some American analysts have argued that North Korea sees its nuclear programme as a cheap form of insurance against reunification with South Korea, which will remain effective no matter how far it falls behind the South in terms of economic or military strength.

Pyongyang's open defiance of the IAEA, making it impossible to check what it has done in the past, means there is no specific deadline for action. Disagreement among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council means it may not discuss the matter for several more days.

China, North Korea's closest ally, has prevented its Security Council partners from passing any resolution on the last couple of occasions the question has been debated. All it has been prepared to allow is a statement by the president of the council, urging the North Koreans to comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 'It would be a jump for the Chinese to agree to a resolution, and a further jump to agree to sanctions,' said the Western diplomat.

Peking has given next to no sign of dropping its traditional opposition to sanctions in almost any circumstances, but the US, Britain and France are pressing ahead with drawing up proposals for their staged imposition on North Korea. The first round might include action to curb Pyongyang's exports of conventional weapons and cutting air links. Preventing imports of oil and food, which nearly all go through China, would not be proposed until later. Nor is is it clear when Japan would be asked to stop all remittances from North Korean residents, worth about dollars 600m ( pounds 400m) a year.

Nobody was under any illusions that sanctions would be very effective, said the diplomat, 'but it is a question of credibility. The Western members have reached the conclusion that the Security Council cannot take this lying down.'

Leading article, page 17

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam