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Two key IAEA flaws that led to North Korean nukes

While observing the current Iranian nuclear crisis, many look back with doubts to the IAEA dealings with North Korea that failed. Former International Atomic Energy Agency Deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt has written The Urgent Need to Strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime (pdf), published by The Carnegie Endowment, in which he highlights the two fatal flaws in the Agreed Framework that lead to North Korea's current nuclear state.

First, it contained a clause that was interpreted by North Korea as limiting the IAEA’s inspection rights under the CSA until such time as a significant portion of the LWR project was completed. Only then would the IAEA be allowed to take all the steps deemed necessary to verify “the accuracy and completeness of the DPRK’s initial report on all nuclear material in the DPRK.” Such limitation was clearly inconsistent with the lessons learned in Iraq during the first Gulf War, which demonstrated that the IAEA needed greater access rights than those under the CSA and not the fewer rights embodied in the Agreed Framework.

The second flaw of the Agreed Framework was that it allowed North Korea to retain in storage all of its spent fuel (SF) containing weapons-grade plutonium and to maintain a reprocessing facility in a state of readiness so that North Korea could restart operation at any time. Only after completion of the LWR project would these facilities have to be dismantled. The U.S. negotiators and others recognized this flaw but could not persuade North Korea to remove it.

And, so rather than stand firm, the signatories signed a knowingly and fatally flawed document that would prove to not serve its sole purpose. North Korea was found by the IAEA to be in non-compliance for ten straight years without consequence before North Korea, in 2003, simply scrapped the paper it signed. In 2004, they declared nuclear weapons possession.

1 Comment

Yes, there were two major flaws: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is a minor flaw.

North Korea was non-compliant, ANYWAY.