SEOUL, South Korea – The U.N. nuclear chief, acknowledging that South Korea's nuclear experiments appear to have been small, said Sunday that his agency nonetheless needs to ensure they are not repeated.
Mohamed ElBaradei (search), director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), is in South Korea to take part in the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. But he also plans to meet with several top officials during his trip.
His visit follows Seoul's recent admissions that it conducted a plutonium-based nuclear experiment more than 20 years ago and a uranium-enrichment experiment in 2000. South Korea (search) says the experiments were purely research but has acknowledged it should have informed the IAEA.
"Any undeclared activities is a matter of serious concern for me," ElBaradei told reporters upon arrival. "However, as far as I know now, these have been small experiments. We just wanted to make sure these were experiments and that there were nothing more than these experiments... (and that) these experiments will not be repeated again without being declared to the organization."
ElBaradei said he believed a report on Seoul's nuclear activities would be ready for submission to the IAEA's board of governors by November.
Asked about the possibility of the issue being reported to the Security Council, which can impose punitive measures, he said such a decision "is far down the road."
"This is something for the board of governors members to decide," he said. "You cannot speculate on the issue before we have a comprehensive report on these experiments."
The IAEA has already sent inspectors here twice, and South Korean officials expect several more such visits.
Plutonium and enriched uranium are two key ingredients of nuclear weapons. The controversy over South Korea's uranium-based experiment has threatened to further disrupt troubled efforts to persuade North Korea to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons programs.
A fourth round of the six-country talks on the North's nuclear programs failed to take place last month, as had been planned by the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.