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N Korea preps nuclear reactor shutdown

Satellite images indicate imminent action, spooks claim

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North Korea may be preparing to shut down its main nuclear reactor, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Although the reactor at the Yongbyon facility "remained in operation today", as The Telegraph explains, South Korean sources suggest "a high possibility that movement of cars and people at the site recorded in satellite photos could be linked to a shutdown".

An official at South Korea's National Intelligence Service said spooks were "following and analysing some peculiar movements" around the reactor, but didn't go into details. Another anonymous official is quoted as saying that South Korea and the US have been monitoring developments for about a month. He said: "The intensity of these activities has increased from about a week or two ago. There are activities other than cars and people moving busily."

The reported activity comes as South Korea prepares to engage in "economic cooperation talks" with the Pyongyang regime. Alluding to the "give up nukes, get aid" carrot offered by the west, North Korea's deputy unification minister Kim Jung-tae said: "The issue of food aid will be discussed."

Back in February, North Korea promised it would shut down its reactor in return for fuel aid. Specifically, it promised to "close its Yongbyon reactor within 60 days, in return for 50,000 metric tons of fuel aid or economic aid of equal value".

The US at the time expressed doubt that Pyongyang would honour the pledge, noting that a similar deal back in 1990s had collapsed when North Korea simply carried on with its nuclear programme. ®

Bootnote

Here's a Google Earth view of Yongbyon from October last year. The reactor is at the bottom right:

Yongbyon nuclear facility

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