Pritchard reports work on Yongbyon building

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Pritchard reports work on Yongbyon building

The United States’ former nuclear envoy, Charles “Jack” Pritchard, visited North Korea last week and saw a new structure being erected at the Yongbyon nuclear site, according to South Korean diplomatic sources yesterday. Pritchard, president of the U.S.-based Korea Economic Institute (KEI), was in North Korea from Nov. 2-6 near Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang. He was not told how the new structure would be used.

“[Pritchard] stayed at a new guesthouse in the Yongbyon region and observed construction of a new building during his visit, although it may not directly be connected with the nuclear facility at Yongbyon,” said a source yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Pritchard informed South Korean nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac of his observations at a lunch in Seoul Wednesday. The structure being built had a “basic structure with steel framework showing,” Pritchard said. He also observed people moving inside the structure. Pritchard also told Wi that he was informed by North Korean officials that their 5-megawatt nuclear reactor was shut down.

He was taken near the nuclear facility but was not allowed inside.

North Korean officials also told Pritchard they would “wait if South Korea, the U.S. and Japan were not yet ready for the six-party talks.” North Korea walked away from denuclearization talks with China, Russia, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan in April 2009, expelled all nuclear inspectors from its country and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

Pritchard told North Korean authorities to be sincere in efforts to shut down the country’s nuclear weapons program, the diplomatic source said.

Earlier in the week, Pritchard informed Vice Minister of Unification Um Jong-sik that he told North Korean Foreign Ministry officials that in order to deal with Washington, “They have to go through Seoul first,” according to a Unification Ministry source. Um told Pritchard that North Korea had to admit to the March sinking of a South Korean warship for inter-Korean relations to thrive. christine.


By Christine Kim [kim@joongang.co.kr]

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