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IAEA chief rules out Russia engaging in nuclear weapons technology trade with N. Korea

All News 20:48 September 15, 2023

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Friday he cannot conceive Russia engaging in trade of nuclear weapons technology with North Korea, amid growing concerns over their military cooperation following a recent bilateral summit.

In an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he doesn't believe that a nuclear weapons state, such as Russia, recognized in the Nonproliferation Treaty "would engage in trade or transfer of any nuclear weapons technology to a country which is by de facto outside the regime."

"I cannot conceive that countries would engage in trade or in exchanges (of nuclear weapons technology) with a country that has such a problematic relation with the nonproliferation regime like the DPRK," Grossi told Yonhap in the video interview held online.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

Grossi also insisted Russia, in its dealings with North Korea, was aware of its obligations as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi holds an online video interview with Yonhap News Agency on Sept. 15, 2023. (Yonhap)

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi holds an online video interview with Yonhap News Agency on Sept. 15, 2023. (Yonhap)

"I pretty much hope that this will continue to be the case," he added.

The summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin was held Wednesday at the Vostochny space center in eastern Russia in their first meeting in more than four years.

Their meeting comes as Pyongyang has recently been seeking to bolster military ties with Moscow and doubling down on its weapons development amid growing security cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Grossi stressed Russia "can help" North Korea engage with the IAEA or create "confidence building avenues" that have been severed between the North and other countries, including South Korea.

In response to North Korea's partial opening of its border after more than three years of COVID-19 curbs, Grossi said the IAEA has not had discussions with Pyongyang over the agency's nuclear inspectors, who were expelled in 2009, reentering the country.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a hotel in Seoul in this file photo taken July 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a hotel in Seoul in this file photo taken July 8, 2023. (Yonhap)

Regarding activities at the North's nuclear complex, the director general said there has been a continuation of "very concerning elements."

Grossi said in a statement to the IAEA board of governors Monday that North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri remains prepared to support a nuclear test, and that the agency continues to see indications of nearby activities.

"What we have is a program that is completely out of any supervisory control, any interaction with any independent monitoring authority or expertise in nuclear safety," he said, and stressed that his agency was following related developments with "enormous interest."

"We are available, we are engaged and we want, of course, for North Korea to engage with us."

odissy@yna.co.kr
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