An oil tanker has left South Korea, bound for the north, as the first step in a deal which should lead to the decommissioning of North Korea’s nuclear facilities – the source of their weapons grade plutonium. It is expected to unload its cargo of more than 6,000 tonnes of fuel oil for its energy-starved neighbour on Saturday.
Sul Chong of the South Korean Unification Ministry said: “We hope the North’s nuclear issues and problems related to inter-Korean relations will be solved smoothly, and this fuel oil will give it momentum.” North Korea agreed in February to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility, and allow international inspectors back into the country in exchange for oil-shipments. When the oil arrives, so too will the monitors, to oversee the shutdown.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed el-Baradei, said: “It is going to be a long process, we should not delude ourselves. This has been a problem for over 15 years – the Korean nuclear issue – and it will take time to have a comprehensive solution.” The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US are to hold the next round of talks in Beijing on July 18.