The chief inspector in North Korea for the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, announced Wednesday that the country has removed the inspection seals and all surveillance equipment from the nuclear reprocessing facility at Yongbyon.
U.N. inspectors have been ordered to leave, and U.S. officials and IAEA representatives confirm that reprocessing at the facility could begin in just a week.
In a statement from its Director General, the IAEA said: “There are no more IAEA seals and surveillance equipment in place at the reprocessing facility. The Democratice People’s Republic of Korea has also informed the IAEA inspectors that they plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant in one week´s time.They further stated that from here on the IAEA inspectors will have no further access to the reprocessing plant.”
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the moves would: “only deepen its isolation.”
She then insisted the Six-Party talks with the North Koreans to disarm are not dead.
“Everyone knows what the path ahead is. The path ahead is for there to be agreement on a verification protocol so that we can continue along the path of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And the North Koreans know that, and so we’ll continue working with our partners on what steps we might need to take.”
National Security Advisor Gordon Johndroe added: “We strongly urge the North to reconsider these steps and come back immediately into compliance with its obligations as outlined in the Six-Party agreements.”
FOX News has confirmed that the seals have been removed and was the first to report on Monday that all the reprocessing equipment had been reinstalled at the Yongbyon nuclear facility on Monday. At that time the North Koreans had asked for the seals to be removed, and there was little the IAEA could do to refuse the request.
Yongbyon has 3 parts to it: the nuclear reactor, the cooling ponds for the spent fuel rods and the reprocessing plant. The reprocessing plant is the easiest to restart. Earlier this year the North Koreans blew up the cooling tower, a largely symbolic act, according to experte. Plutonium can still be extracted from the spent fuel for use in a bomb without the cooling facility.
The North Koreans had completed approximately 8 of 11 requirements to denuclearize in exchange for aid but talks with the US, China and others hit a snag when the US demanded greater verification and soil samples from the facility and refused to take North Korea off the US State Department’s Terror list, which essentially blocked the Koreans from receiving trade money.
FOX News has learned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffered a massive stroke on or about August 14 and may no longer be in control of his country.
FOX News' Nina Donaghy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and is based out of the Washington D.C. bureau. She joined the network in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.