North Korea may be preparing nuclear and missile sites for international inspections despite concerns about ‘US hostility’
- The South’s spy agency observed North Koreans ‘conducting preparation and intelligence activities that seem to be in preparation for foreign inspectors’
- Separately, a senior security aide told South Korean media that Pyongyang remained reluctant to disclose a list of its nuclear facilities and materials
South Korea’s spy agency has observed preparations by North Korea for international inspections at several of its nuclear and missile test sites, the Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, citing a South Korean lawmaker.
Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party told reporters that intelligence officials had observed what they believed to be preparations for possible inspections at Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the Sohae Satellite launching ground.
However, a security adviser to President Moon Jae-in also indicated to Yonhap that Pyongyang remains unwilling to provide a list detailing its nuclear facilities and materials due to the “hostility” of US policy.
The South’s National Intelligence Service observed North Koreans “conducting preparation and intelligence activities that seem to be in preparation for foreign inspectors’ visit,” the lawmaker added, but no major movements were seen at Yongbyon, the North’s main nuclear complex.
North Korea has stopped nuclear and missile tests in the past year, but it did not allow international inspections of its dismantling of Punggye-ri in May, drawing criticism that the action was merely for show and could be reversed.
In September, its leader Kim Jong-un pledged at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to also close Sohae and allow experts to observe the dismantling of the missile engine testing site and a launch pad.
At the time, Moon said North Korea agreed to let international inspectors observe a “permanent dismantlement” of key missile facilities, and take further steps, such as closing Yongbyon, in return for reciprocal moves by the United States.
Washington has demanded steps such as a full disclosure of the North’s nuclear and missile facilities, before agreeing to Pyongyang’s key goals, including an easing of international sanctions and an official end to the Korean war.
Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser for unification, diplomacy and national security affairs, told Yonhap on Monday he heard a top-ranking North Korean official expressing reluctance to comply with the US demands while in Pyongyang last month.
“I said to a high-ranking North Korean official that the North can build trust with the US after providing its nuclear programme list, accepting international nuclear inspection and signing an end-of-war declaration,” Moon said. “But the North’s position was clear. The official told me his country cannot present a list of nuclear facilities and materials due to hostility from the US.”