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12 February 2003 | Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors

Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Once again, the Board is meeting to consider recent events relevant to the compliance by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) with its safeguards agreement with the Agency. As I stated to the Board meeting on 6 January, the DPRK has been in chronic non-compliance with its safeguards agreement since 1993 when the Agency was unable to verify that the DPRK had declared to the Agency all nuclear material that is subject to safeguards. And since 1994 the DPRK has sought shelter behind the US-DPRK "Agreed Framework," claiming a legally untenable "unique status" under the NPT to circumvent compliance with its non-proliferation obligations. This status claimed by the DPRK has been rejected by the Board of Governors and the General Conference, which unequivocally declared the safeguards agreement to be binding and in force.

The events of December of last year further aggravated this situation. Not only did the DPRK fail to respond to the repeated requests of the Secretariat and the Board for clarification of reports concerning an alleged undeclared enrichment programme, but it displayed complete disregard for its obligations under the safeguards agreement by cutting all seals and impeding the functioning of all surveillance cameras that were in place in its nuclear facilities. These actions culminated in an order for the immediate departure of Agency inspectors at a time when the DPRK announced its intention to restart its nuclear facilities and when the presence of inspectors would have been critical.

These unilateral acts by the DPRK took place against a backdrop of repeated requests by the Secretariat to the Government of the DPRK to work with the Agency to maintain the required continuity of safeguards by ensuring an orderly transition from a situation where activities in the facilities were frozen to one in which the facilities became operational. In other words, while the Secretariat took note of the decision by the DPRK to restart the operation of the facilities, it also made it clear that this should only take place in full compliance with the DPRK's safeguards obligations to ensure that the facilities, and the nuclear material contained therein, are dedicated exclusively to peaceful purposes.

The result of this series of events, as I reported to the Board of Governors in GOV/2002/62, was that the Agency was rendered unable to exercise its responsibilities under the safeguards agreement, namely to verify that the DPRK is not diverting nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and also unable to verify that the DPRK has declared to the Agency all the nuclear material that is subject to safeguards.

On 6 January, in the light of that report, the Board adopted a resolution that considered the DPRK's actions to be of great non-proliferation concern, and reiterated its call to the DPRK to comply promptly and fully with its safeguards agreement. The Board also stressed its desire for a peaceful resolution of the issue. The resolution affirmed, however, that unless the DPRK took all necessary steps to allow the Agency to implement all required safeguards measures, the DPRK would be in further non-compliance with its safeguards agreement. The Board in addition requested that I pursue urgently all efforts aimed at having the DPRK come into full compliance with its safeguards obligations, and to report again to the Board as a matter of urgency.

Regrettably, since the adoption of the Board resolution, my numerous and repeated efforts to engage the DPRK have been in vain. On 10 January, the DPRK declared the resolution to be "unjust," and announced that, as of 11 January, it was withdrawing from the NPT.

The Secretariat remains unable to verify, in accordance with the NPT safeguards agreement - which in our view remains binding and in force - that there has been no diversion of nuclear material in the DPRK. Furthermore, the DPRK's actions and statements do not indicate readiness to enable the Agency to perform its safeguards responsibilities. In my view, as stated in the report, the DPRK's actions at this time constitute further non-compliance with the NPT safeguards agreement.

The current situation clearly sets a dangerous precedent. If we aim to maintain and preserve the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, then it must be incumbent on all parties to that regime to fully meet their respective obligations, and all cases of non-compliance must be consistently addressed by the international community in a uniform fashion.

Needless to say, the Secretariat remains committed to continuing to work with the DPRK and all concerned parties, with a view to securing full compliance by the DPRK with its safeguards agreement through peaceful means. I am naturally aware of the security, humanitarian and other issues relevant to the DPRK that must be addressed in addition to the question of compliance by the DPRK with its safeguards obligations. However, in my view, the key to the resolution of all outstanding issues, both multilateral and bilateral, is a clear commitment by the DPRK to comply fully and promptly with its safeguards and non-proliferation obligations. This is a matter of grave concern and with broad international implications, and the resolution of this issue is a prerequisite to the resolution of other issues. Co-operation between the DPRK and the Agency is therefore an essential ingredient of any comprehensive solution.

I am encouraged by the increasing readiness of concerned parties to pursue a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues through multilateral and bilateral discussions, and I hope that your decision today will serve as an impetus to explore all available means for the resolution of these concerns while preserving the integrity of the non-proliferation regime.