North Korea says Iraq shows inspections lead to war
SEOUL: The lesson from Iraq is that inspections to uncover weapons of mass destruction bring war instead of preventing it, communist North Korea said on Thursday.
In a commentary issued for the anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq and as Asian diplomats are trying to resolve a row over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Pyongyang’s KCNA news agency reiterated the communist state’s aversion to inspections.
“What happened in Iraq teaches a serious lesson that . . . accepting unreasonable inspection aimed at disarmament will not help avert a war but lead to it,” the state-run agency said.
Pyongyang, whose nuclear weapons programmes have been the focus of intensive diplomacy since late 2002, has been suspicious of US intentions since President George W Bush branded the North, Iran and pre-war Iraq an “axis of evil”.
KCNA did not refer to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programmes in the commentary on the first anniversary of the Iraq war, which falls on Saturday.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said in Washington on Wednesday that if his inspectors ever returned to North Korea, they would want unfettered access to all atomic sites to make sure Pyongyang was not cheating.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei made it clear that if current six-party talks eventually reach an agreement that calls for the IAEA’s return to North Korea, he would not accept restrictions.
“We need a robust system where we can go at short notice and do environmental sampling, and do all it takes to make sure that we are not being cheated,” ElBaradei told reporters after meeting Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
ElBaradei was blunt in his conclusion on the risk North Korea posed. “They have the capability, if not the bomb already,” he said.
Six-country talks in Beijing last month — involving the two Koreas, Japan, China, the United States and Russia — agreed to establish the working groups to hammer out details of how to end the nuclear crisis.
China announced on Thursday that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing would make a rare trip to North Korea next week to try to expedite consultations on the North’s nuclear programmes. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is also slated to visit China from March 28 to 30, the two countries said. —Reuters