El Baradei heads to South Korea, Japan
* Will discuss Seoul’s atomic research and launch IAEA campaign bid
VIENNA: The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed El Baradei, flies to South Korea on Saturday to discuss revelations about Seoul’s undeclared atomic research and to launch his campaign for a third term at the agency.
After completing talks with South Korean officials, the 61-year-old head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) departs for Tokyo on Wednesday, an IAEA spokeswoman said.
“He’ll be in Tokyo when the Nobel Peace Prize is announced on Friday,” IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. Nominated jointly, El Baradei and the IAEA are one of the favourites for the prize.
El Baradei will be discussing the IAEA’s preliminary findings in Seoul. Agency inspectors, who were in South Korea last week to take environmental samples and interview scientists, will submit a report to the IAEA board of governors next month, after which South Korea hopes the case will be closed.
Some diplomats on the board have said South Korea’s failure to report the experiments was a violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and should be reported to the UN Security Council.
El Baradei’s visit to Asia is his first official trip since he announced his desire to remain at the helm of the UN agency for a third term. The United States is against his candidacy, but diplomats in Vienna said El Baradei hoped to confirm the support of Seoul and Tokyo during the trip.
“Many member countries implored me to continue and complete several pending issues such as the Iranian nuclear file and those of Iraq and North Korea ... (and) build a more effective system to combat the nuclear black market,” the Egyptian diplomat told the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. reuters