Wednesday, June 29, 2022

North Korea may be preparing nuclear test, says atomic energy agency

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The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, on Monday predicted in Vienna that North Korea may be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

IAEA general director Rafael Grossi said observation of the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site in the north of the country pointed to the reopening of shafts.

“At the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri we have observed indications that one of the adits (entrances) has been reopened, possibly in preparation for a nuclear test.

“The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.’’

He added that this was consistent with similar activity previous to other tests in North Korea.

The findings shared on Monday were based on regularly updated satellite imagery, he said, without specifying the time period of the observations.

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Grossi said the country’s nuclear programme was “a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” calling on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under those resolutions and to cooperate with the IAEA.

North Korea should resolve all outstanding issues, “especially those that have arisen during the absence of agency inspectors from the country,” he added.

North Korea, which does not allow international inspectors into the country, conducted six nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site between 2006 and 2017.

The IAEA, an autonomous organization within the UN system, monitors the nuclear sites with the aid of satellites.

On Sunday, North Korea responded to a joint naval exercise carried out by the U.S. and South Korea by launching eight short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, in defiance of multiple UN resolutions prohibiting their use by Pyongyang.

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The IAEA also said that Iran could have enough raw materials for a nuclear weapon in a few weeks. According to Grossi, the question is no longer if Iran can make one, but when that will be the case.

Earlier, Grossi presented a non-public report to the IAEA member states, which said that Iran is approaching a significant hurdle in the production of nuclear weapons-grade material.

The Islamic Republic has enriched 43.1 kilogrammes of uranium to a purity level of 60 per cent and about 50 kilogrammes would be enough for a nuclear weapon if the material were enriched higher, to 90 per cent, according to a high-ranking diplomat.

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The IAEA board of governors, meeting in Vienna will not only address this issue, but also Tehran’s refusal to clarify open questions about secret nuclear activities in the past.

The IAEA-Iran talks are running parallel to the currently stalled diplomatic negotiations on the restoration of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

While new restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme and the end of U.S. sanctions have already been more or less negotiated an agreement on Tehran’s demand to lift sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is still pending.

dpa/NAN

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