Pressure on Pyongyang increases

BRITAIN, the US and Russia yesterday called on North Korea to comply with safeguards agreements and drop its threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), writes Raymond Whitaker. Earlier Pyongyang's refusal to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities was referred to the UN Security Council.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body which polices the non-proliferation treaty, declared after a two-day meeting of its board of governors in Vienna that North Korea was in violation of the safeguards agreement it signed last year, and handed the matter over to the Security Council. North Korea refused to comply with a 31 March deadline to allow IAEA inspectors into two facilities at which it is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

For the first time in its history, the IAEA board directed the agency's director-general, Hans Blix, to report a member's non-compliance to the Security Council, but this may simply highlight the international community's inability to put pressure on Kim Il Sung's isolated Stalinist regime. China, almost the only country with influence over North Korea, joined Libya in voting against the IAEA resolution. Pakistan, this month's Security Council chairman, abstained, as did India, Syria and Vietnam.

A senior Western diplomat said the priority was to maintain the integrity of the NPT, which China endorsed, and prevent other nations seeking to follow North Korea in breaking a safeguards agreement. Time was needed 'to permit those with influence in Pyongyang to exercise it'.