Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Difficulties in Accomplishing IAEA's Activities in North Korea

RCED-98-210: Published: Jul 7, 1998. Publicly Released: Jul 13, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed issues related to the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea, focusing on the status of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA): (1) nuclear-freeze-monitoring activities; (2) inspections of facilities not subject to the freeze; and (3) plans to verify the accuracy and completeness of North Korea's 1992 declaration of the amount of nuclear material in its possession.

GAO noted that: (1) the Agreed Framework requires North Korea to freeze operations and construction at five of its nuclear-related facilities and to permit IAEA to monitor the freeze; (2) in accordance with the arrangements under the Agreed Framework, IAEA began monitoring the freeze at the five facilities in late November 1994; (3) the five facilities, collectively, have the potential to produce nuclear material for creating nuclear weapons; (4) while IAEA is confident that operations and construction at these facilities have been frozen, IAEA identified several problems affecting its ability to determine whether North Korea is complying fully with other aspects of the nuclear freeze; (5) according to IAEA, safeguard measures on the liquid nuclear waste tanks at North Korea's reprocessing facility are needed to ensure that the nuclear waste is not being removed or altered; (6) North Korea says that it is cooperating fully with IAEA's freeze-monitoring measures; (7) the Agreed Framework allows North Korea to continue operating certain nuclear facilities not covered by the freeze; (8) IAEA resumed its inspections of these facilities in March 1996 and inspects most of them several times a year; (9) on the other hand, North Korea still refuses to accept activities, such as environmental sampling, at these facilities; (10) IAEA will need to perform a wide variety of complex and time-consuming activities to verify the accuracy and completeness of: (a) North Korea's initial declaration of nuclear facilities; and (b) the amount of nuclear material in its possession; (11) these activities are linked in the Agreed Framework to certain stages in a reactor's construction; if the reactor project suffers delays, IAEA's activities could be correspondingly delayed; (12) since 1995, IAEA has repeatedly stressed that unless IAEA and North Korea reach an early agreement on: (a) obtaining the information needed to verify the declaration; and (b) the measures required to preserve such information, any future possibility of verifying North Korea's nuclear declaration might be lost; and (13) North Korea has neither provided the information nor agreed to all of IAEA's proposed interim measures for preserving it because, in North Korea's view, IAEA's requirements are excessive and premature in relation to the timeframes established in the Agreed Framework.

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