U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Says Open to Any Role in North Korea If Asked

VIENNA (Reuters) —
A view of the U.N. building with the IAEA at the International Center, in Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it would carry out any verification role it was asked to in North Korea, though that would depend on further talks between Washington and Pyongyang after the two countries’ leaders met on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had pledged at their summit in Singapore to move towards complete denuclearization, while the United States promised to provide the isolated Communist nation with security guarantees.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials would hold further talks “at the earliest possible date,” according to a joint statement issued at the summit.

Dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program – if that is what they agree to – and verifying it is likely to be a large and complex task.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said it is best placed to verify a deal, though it focuses on monitoring nuclear materials and sites rather than disarmament.

“The IAEA will closely follow the negotiations to be held between the two countries to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK Summit,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in a statement, using the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The IAEA stands ready to undertake any verification activities in the DPRK that it may be requested to conduct by the countries concerned, subject to authorisation by the IAEA’s Board of Governors,” said Amano.

IAEA inspectors have not returned to North Korea since they were expelled from there in 2009.

The joint statement issued after Tuesday’s summit did not address verification but Trump later told a news conference that he had discussed that issue with Kim. Verifying denuclearisation in North Korea would be achieved “by having a lot of people there,” he said.

Asked if those people would be from the United States or international organizations, he said: “Combinations of both.”

Since the IAEA does not usually deal with disarmament, diplomats who follow the agency said some nuclear weapons states – another term for the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – are likely to handle that side of any agreement.

The head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization later issued a statement saying that if asked it would support any verification activities to ensure North Korea’s only known nuclear test site is closed permanently.

North Korea invited international media but not foreign experts to witness the blowing up last month of tunnels at the site, where it has carried out all six of its nuclear tests. That raised questions as to how much damage was actually done.

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