Inspectors to Verify North Korea Reactor Is Shut U.N. inspectors are in North Korea to verify the shutdown and sealing of the country's main nuclear facility at Yongbyon. Pyongyang says it shut the country's sole operating nuclear reactor after receiving an initial shipment of oil from South Korea.
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Inspectors to Verify North Korea Reactor Is Shut

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Inspectors to Verify North Korea Reactor Is Shut

Inspectors to Verify North Korea Reactor Is Shut

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Yesterday, North Korea informed the United States of the shutdown of its nuclear facility at Yongbyon. This completes the first step of a preliminary aid for disarmament agreement signed in February. To verify the shutdown of the facility, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been readmitted to the country for the first time in almost five years. In addition, the six-party talks concerning North Korea's nuclear program are scheduled to resume this coming week.

On the line to discuss these developments is Siegfried Hecker, co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He is also an emeritus director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and that's where we've reached him. Thank you for your time.

Dr. SIEGFRIED HECKER (Co-Director, Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation; Emeritus Director, New Mexico Los Alamos National Laboratory): Good day. It's a pleasure to be here.

HANSEN: Do you think the North Koreans will be forthcoming with all of the information on its nuclear programs and capabilities?

Dr. HECKER: Well, the way the North Koreans have laid it out in the February 13th, what they call their initial action plan is that they would do this step by step in concert with steps that the United States and the other parties would take.

All that one can say now is they indeed have followed through to take the first crucial step of shutting down the reactor and then looking at the rest of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon. They have indeed decided to do that so they're forthcoming on the first step. And the second steps and the third steps, I'm sure will depend on how they view that the United States and the other parties have met their obligations.

HANSEN: Do you think this time is different from previous attempts to work with the North Koreans?

Dr. HECKER: I have hoped that indeed that it is. The North Koreans have given every indication that at this point, they are ready to stop the production of additional plutonium and therefore the material for additional weapons. In terms of actually shutting down the entire program, I think that will be a much longer duration, but I do believe - based on my discussions with the North Koreans - that they are indeed sincere about the first step and that is the shutting down of the facilities.

HANSEN: But are you doubtful about the successive steps?

Dr. HECKER: Well, the major problem with the successive steps is that they are indeed very difficult in the spirit of what the North Koreans call this action for action. They have indicated for the time being, they're willing to shutdown the facilities, essentially to make no more materials for no more bombs.

In return, you know, what they wanted - some steps that the United States would have to take, you know, such as beginning bilateral talks towards normalization of relationships, of taking them off the list of terrorist-supporting states, and also taking them off what we call Trading with the Enemy Act. And so they're waiting for those steps to go in concert.

However, the next big step, which would be to actually get rid of their weapons-grade plutonium and whatever nuclear weapons that they have, in my opinion will require a transformation of relationship between North Korea and the United States specifically. And I believe that that's going to be a much longer term process.

HANSEN: On Friday, North Korea revived an old demand for direct military talks with the United States. Do you think that's likely to happen?

Dr. HECKER: That's hard to tell from the U.S. standpoint because the U.S. has made it very clear that it wants to proceed in the six-party framework. One of the reasons that I believe the North Koreans this time are more serious because they have been able to get bilateral talks with the United States. And they have indicated for years that that is indeed what will be required in order for them to take the next steps. The U.S. has been willing diplomatically to take those bilateral steps with Ambassador Hill talking directly to the North Koreans.

From my standpoint, it's encouraging to see that the North Korean military wants to follow up because in the end, one has to bring them, as well as their diplomats along, and so my own view is I think those important steps to take -whether the United States will take them, whether the United States will see that's in the spirit of the six-party talks, I can't tell.

HANSEN: Do you think if the United States refused this demand, the six-party talks or the inspections might be derailed?

Dr. HECKER: I would never believe that because the entire discussion and the dialogue is such that obviously each side makes greater demands than they can possibly hope to actually fulfill. So I think this is just one of the pieces in the chess game.

HANSEN: Are you optimistic about the ending of the chess game?

Dr. HECKER: I actually - I would say I have some hope that we have a chance for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, that's going to require an enormous amount of diplomacy and a significant amount of building trust between two former strong adversaries.

HANSEN: Siegfried Hecker is co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He's also an emeritus director of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Thank you, Dr. Hecker.

Dr. HECKER: Thank you.

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