October 10, 2008

N Korea Bans UN Inspectors

World in brief

PYONGYANG North Korea has banned United Nations weapons inspectors from its main nuclear complex amid reports that it is also preparing for a mass testing of missiles at a disputed sea border. The decision to stop the monitors throughout the Yongbyon centre is seen by analysts as a significant step towards Pyongyang jettisoning a deal to dismantle its atomic bomb programme. At the same time, Pyongyang accused South Korea of encroaching on its coastal territory and warned that "decisive action" would be taken to counter the move. Yesterday's developments prompted the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to say that Washington was "reviewing the situation". According to reports, an American surveillance satellite has detected preparations for the launch of up to 10 missiles at Chodo naval base. Pyongyang has already barred UN inspectors from the plutonium-producing section of Yongbyon but had continued allowing them to check on the shutdown status of other parts of the plant. The North Koreans carried out their first nuclear weapons test two years ago, leading to concern and an eventual disarmament pact with the US, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan. Pyongyang has been claiming, however, that the Americans had reneged on a promise to remove North Korea from a blacklist of states said to be "sponsors of terrorism". Washington has countered that this could not be done until a system was properly in place to verify North Korean assurances that it was indeed dismantling its nuclear arms programme.


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