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World News

Fuel reaches N. Korea on nuclear disarmament deal

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief of mission Adel Tolba speaks to the media upon his arrival at the airport in Beijing July 13, 2007. A tanker carrying fuel oil docked at a North Korean port on Saturday under a deal by six countries on shutting down the communist state's nuclear reactor, South Korea's Unification Ministry said. REUTERS/Alfred Cheng Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) - A tanker carrying fuel oil docked at a North Korean port on Saturday under a deal by six countries on shutting down the communist state’s nuclear reactor, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

North Korea said last week it would consider suspending the operation of its nuclear facilities as soon as it received the first shipment of oil from South Korea under the February 13 aid-for-disarmament deal.

The South Korean tanker arrived at the port of Sonbong at 4:00 a.m. (8:00 p.m. British time, Friday) on the northeastern coast of North Korea, a Unification Ministry spokesman said.

Under the February agreement, North Korea has invited back a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the reactor shutdown, the first time the North’s nuclear activities will be under outside surveillance since 2002.

The United States that year accused North Korea of operating a covert uranium enrichment programme in violation of a 1994 pact on scrapping nuclear activities in return for two relatively proliferation-resistant reactors.

Annual fuel shipments as part of that deal were suspended in late 2002, leading to its collapse and prompting Pyongyang to expel IAEA inspectors and restart the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which houses the reactor and fuel reprocessing facilities.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test last year, which officials and experts in Seoul say was a failure, but has agreed to end its nuclear arms programme in return for aid and better diplomatic ties with the world.

IAEA inspectors are expected to fly into the North on Saturday, and the talks by South and North Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and China are set to resume on Wednesday to map out the next stage of disabling the North’s nuclear programme.

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