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Statement of IAEA Director General regarding DPRK at informal briefing of UN Security Council, April 1993

Vienna, Austria
  1. In a resolution adopted on 1 April the Board of Governors of the IAEA requested the Director General of the IAEA to report on behalf of the Board non-compliance of the DPRK with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the Agency's inability to verify non-diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded.
  2. The formal report is ready and has been submitted to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Council. I am glad to have the opportunity already today informally to brief the Council about the resolution and its background.
  3. DPRK adhered to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985 but it was not until 10 April last year that a safeguards agreement pursuant to NPT entered into force. A so-called Initial Report of nuclear material and installations was submitted on 4 May 1992. It listed inter alia a nearly completed reprocessing plant referred to as the Radiochemical Laboratory in which a small quantity of plutonium was stated to have been reprocessed in 1990 from damaged fuel rods which had been irradiated in the 5 MW(e) experimental reactor.
  4. In May last year I was, myself, invited to the DPRK and visited a number of nuclear installations, including the "Radiochemical Laboratory". I was told that experience in reprocessing had been gained through an experiment in 1975-77, when a few grams had been separated from fuel irradiated in the IRT research reactor. In replies to enquiries as to whether any pilot reprocessing plant had been operated between 1977 and 1990, the answer was that the leap had been taken from the experiment in 1975-77 to the construction of the Radiochemical Laboratory.
  5. Teams of IAEA safeguards inspectors visited DPRK installations from June 1992 and received much co-operation. They also found some inconsistencies between the Initial Report and other information given by the DPRK and the findings made by the IAEA. This is by no means unique. Many errors and mistakes occur in reporting and the normal course of events is that these are cleared up through closer investigation. In the case of the DPRK some relatively minor inconsistencies have been solved but some major ones have not gone away despite questions, discussion and analysis - which began already in the summer of 1992 and continued up to a meeting between experts in connection with the meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors in February of this year.
  6. The most important points on which information has differed from Agency findings are the following:
    • (a) Nuclear waste which was stored within the compound of the Radiochemical Laboratory and from which samples were taken for analysis, proved to have an isotopic composition indicating that some plutonium should exist which has not been declared. Whether there are grams or kilograms the analysis cannot tell;
    • (b) Sample analysis of the plutonium which has been declared indicates that there should be some nuclear waste which has not yet been made available for sampling and analysis;
    • (c) The DPRK tells the Agency that only one reprocessing campaign has been carried out in the unfinished reprocessing plant - the Radiochemical Laboratory - in 1990 using irradiated fuel elements from the 5 MW(e) Experimental Power Reactor. The Agency's analyses suggest that there should have been several such operations.
  7. Many hours have been spent in attempts to explain these inconsistencies. The plutonium declared and analysed and the nuclear waste declared and analysed are like two gloves which don't match. There should be two more gloves to match the pair which we have seen and analysed.
  8. In view of these inconsistencies the Agency became much interested in information obtained from a third party about sites which appeared related to nuclear waste and which are located at the Nyongbyon nuclear village, one of the buildings in the vicinity of the Radiochemical Laboratory - the unfinished reprocessing plant.
  9. Two Agency officials were permitted to visit this building in September last year. They were told it was a one-storey building and they could see that some military but no nuclear equipment was stored in it. What the Agency officials did not see, but what satellite pictures taken during different phases of the construction of the building later showed us was that there was a lower storey which was now invisible because of landscaping and which had a construction and a configuration that strongly suggested its purpose was nuclear waste disposal. The two Agency officials I mentioned visited also a second site in September, a site that they became convinced was not nuclear-related. It was therefore written off as of safeguards interest.
  10. Satellite pictures taken in the fall were further made available to the Agency indicating that a location at Nyongbyon which has the obvious layout of a nuclear waste storage site was being covered by earth. The road to it was erased and trees and shrubs were planted. I might mention that the layout of the site is very similar to the waste site at Tuwaitha outside Baghdad - a site with which the Agency is familiar. I might also mention that while concealment of plutonium is not so difficult, because even a few kilograms is no larger in volume than a fist, the concealment of waste associated with the separation of plutonium is very much more so. For every kilogram of plutonium derived from reprocessing, waste would amount to about 200 cubic metres. Therefore, for larger quantities of plutonium, the associated waste could amount to many thousands of cubic metres. Such wastes could only be stored in appropriate waste storage facilities.

    It is against this background that the two sites which the Agency wishes to visit and take samples, assume particular importance.

  11. During a meeting in Vienna on 30 November to 1 December 1992 between the DPRK Minister of Atomic Energy and officials assisting him and myself and experts accompanying me, the inconsistencies were discussed. I stressed the urgent need for the Agency to visit again the building which our officials had seen in September and the site which had been covered and landscaped last fall, and for the Agency to obtain samples from these sites. This was not a request for a special inspection under the safeguards agreement, but a request for a visit in pursuance of an invitation issued earlier by the Minister for Agency officials to see sites whether or not they were included in the Initial Report. The Minister and his officials responded that it would not be "normal" during such a visit to take samples but they did not decline the request. Subsequent cables did not, however, bring any positive response. On the Agency side we felt that a visit of this informal kind would be more acceptable to the DPRK and less dramatic than a special inspection - a measure never before taken vis-à-vis an undeclared site.
  12. In the absence of a positive response to our request for a visit by officials, we eventually, on 9 January, signalled our need for information to be obtained under the safeguards agreement's articles concerning special inspections - Articles 73 and 77. This was resisted, but a mission headed by the Agency's Director of External Relations was accepted. They visited Pyongyang on 20-22 January 1993. The mission explained in no uncertain terms that in the absence of the clarification - including the possibility of visits by officials which the Agency sought, and notably through taking samples from two sites that appeared waste-related - the Agency was not in a position to verify the correctness and assess the completeness of the Initial Declaration made by the DPRK. The seriousness of the situation was thus made absolutely clear. The formal request for special inspections, which followed later, could hardly have been a surprise. The DPRK officials did not, however, show any signs of readiness to accommodate our request. They asserted that the sites were non-nuclear and military.

    It should be recalled that at this time tension was rising on the Korean peninsula due to the expected military manoeuvre "Team Spirit" in the Republic of Korea. The DPRK officials urged that all questions that needed clarification should be discussed between DPRK experts and the sixth Agency ad hoc inspection team which was due to arrive soon.

  13. The sixth inspection mission arrived and spent nearly two weeks in intense discussions, which regrettably failed to give the needed clarifications. Nor was it enabled to visit the two sites from which samples were desired. Upon the return to Vienna of the sixth inspection team and analysis of its results, it was decided in the Secretariat that there was no option other than formally to request a "special inspection". This was done in a cable of 9 February. An annex to the cable listed inconsistencies between information provided by the DPRK and the findings of the IAEA. The cable specified the two sites which the Agency had reason to believe were waste-related and to which the Agency wanted access to take samples. The reply of 15 February from DPRK failed to accept our request but signalled that an expert DPRK mission would come to Vienna to discuss inconsistencies. It stressed that the two sites which the Agency wished to visit were military and not nuclear-related.
  14. The mission, headed by the Minister for Atomic Energy himself, arrived just before the IAEA regular February Board meeting. While the discussions during the weekend of 20 and 21 February brought some relevant data concerning the operation of the 5 MW(e) experimental reactor, it did nothing to clarify the serious inconsistencies and offered no access to the two sites from which the Agency wished to take samples.
  15. The impasse which thus appeared to have arisen was reported to the Board of Governors of the IAEA at its meeting on 22-25 February. In my statement before the Board I said that the Agency did not want to assume lightly that an Initial Report was incorrect or incomplete. Regrettably, however, the Secretariat was not in a position to confirm the correctness and completeness of the declaration such as it stood. The Secretariat was of the view that the DPRK had the obligation under the Safeguards Agreement (Art. 3) to co-operate and that such co-operation must include access to additional relevant information as well as locations which the Agency had reason to believe were related to nuclear waste.

    As the detailed information given to the Board included safeguards confidential material by experts from the Secretariat, the Board met in closed session. It received a detailed account of the inconsistencies relating to plutonium and nuclear waste and it was shown the pictures on the basis of which the Secretariat had concluded that two locations of the Nyongbyon nuclear centre were related to nuclear waste.

    I stressed that when looking for nuclear waste that matched the plutonium declared, the Secretariat could not possibly ignore any information about sites which appeared related to nuclear waste. These sites, located within a nuclear centre, could not be immunized form inspections, I said, by the presence or placing of some military equipment on them.

  16. On 25 February the Board adopted without a vote a resolution in which it took note of the significant inconsistencies between the declarations of the DPRK and the findings of the IAEA which remained unresolved, and called upon the DPRK urgently to respond positively to the request for access for additional information and additional sites. The Board requested me to report within a month.
  17. The resolution of the Board was immediately transmitted to the DPRK. In a reply of 10 March the DPRK referred to the ongoing military exercise "Team Spirit" and the state of semi-war which existed in the DPRK. In the circumstances, receipt of an Agency inspection team could not be considered.
  18. Shortly thereafter, on 12 March, the Agency received the DPRK announcement of its decision to withdraw from the NPT as a measure to defend its supreme interests. In a cable I advised the DPRK that the Safeguards Agreement remained in force until any withdrawal from the NPT took effect and that a declaration of an intention to withdraw shall not impede implementation of the Safeguards Agreement.
  19. On 16 March the DPRK replied, inter alia, that it "cannot receive the Agency inspection teams".
  20. On 18 March, the Board of Governors met and adopted - still without a vote - a further resolution confirming that the Safeguards Agreement remained in force and that it was essential and urgent that the DPRK enable the Agency to take the necessary measures to resolve differences and ensure verification of compliance with the Safeguards Agreement. The Director General was asked to report on the response of the DPRK at a Board meeting on 31 March.
  21. In a cable to the DPRK the day after the Board meeting, i.e. 19 March, I reiterated the request for access by Agency inspection teams and advised that if access were not obtained, I would have no choice but to report non-compliance by DPRK with the Safeguards Agreement when the Board met again on 31 March. I stated that the Agency was ready to discuss arrangements which might minimize legitimate security concerns about inspections at military sites.
  22. On 30 March, one day before the Board meeting, the DPRK Minister of Atomic Energy sent a further cable in which he stated that the DPRK was always ready to respond if the Agency's Secretariat wished to consult about the implementation of the Safeguards Agreement - thereby apparently implying recognition of the continued validity of the agreement. At the same time, however, the position was confirmed that there was no readiness to discuss the issue of "special inspection".
  23. In my statement to the Board on 31 March I pointed to the DPRK's reaffirmation of its express rejection of the Agency's right to make a special inspection - despite the decision of the Board on 25 February that the access requested to additional information and additional sites was essential and urgent. The rejection was serious, I said, not only because it presented a challenge to the Agency's right of special inspections and the Board's endorsement of that right, but also because in fact it precluded the Agency from taking samples which might bring clarity where there was now inconsistency and uncertainty.
  24. In its resolution adopted on 1 April the Board of the IAEA found that the DPRK "is in non-compliance with its obligation under the safeguards agreement with the Agency", and that the Agency is "not able to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material ... to nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices." The Board called upon the DPRK to remedy its non-compliance by granting access to specific additional information and to the two locations indicated by the Agency. It further decided, in keeping with Article XII.C of the Agency's Statute and Article 19 of the Safeguards Agreement, to report the non-compliance and the Agency's inability to verify non-diversion of nuclear material to the Security Council, and to all Members of the Agency and to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Lastly, in order to stress that the Agency itself continues to regard the matter as a high priority, the Board requested the Director General to continue his efforts and dialogue to implement fully the Safeguards Agreement and it decided to remain seized of the matter.
  25. This was Thursday, 1 April - last week. The formal report has been transmitted to the Secretary-General and is now distributed to the Security Council.
  26. In concluding I would like to underline a few points: First, the lack of co-operation from the DPRK with the Agency in clarifying inconsistencies is very serious and amounts to non-compliance as the Board of Governors has determined.

    In particular, it is worrying that the Agency is not in a position to verify the correctness of the quantity of plutonium which the DPRK has declared; rather the findings of the Agency point to the existence of plutonium which has not been declared.

    Second, the Agency has sought over a period of time with patience and persistence to bring clarity where there is inconsistency. While these efforts have met with some co-operation by the DPRK, the explanations given to us have been ineffective and inadequate to clarify the most important inconsistencies. Moreover, the DPRK has so far shown active resistance as regards inspection visits by the Agency to additional sites and sample-taking.

    Third, that a simple declaration by the DPRK that the sites are military and/or non-nuclear related cannot preclude inspection, where, as is the case, there is prima facie evidence of nuclear and safeguards relevance of the sites.

    Fourth, that the sites are not immunized by the presence or placing of military objects on them. However, inspections can be undertaken with arrangements to minimize any legitimate security concerns.

    Fifth and last, IAEA safeguards are a vital component of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Security Council acknowledged this in its Summit Statement of 31 January. Safeguards must be sufficiently effective to uncover any breaches or concealments with a high degree of probability. The international community must be able to have confidence in the effectiveness of the system. The findings which have been made by the Agency as regards the DPRK and which are at variance with some information given by the DPRK, are in part the result of strengthened safeguards techniques, and in part the result of more information now being made available to the Agency. The demand which has been made for a special inspection of sites not declared and which has been endorsed by the Board is also a result of the Agency's asserting its rights. Where these are resisted, the backing of the Security Council is required to protect the effectiveness and continued credibility of the safeguards system.

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Last update: 26 Nov 2019

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