The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, expressed his skepticism about the possibility of Russia trading nuclear weapons technology with North Korea. The statement comes amid growing concerns over military cooperation between the two countries following a recent bilateral summit.
In an exclusive interview with Yonhap news agency, Grossi said, “I can’t imagine countries engaging in trade or exchange (of nuclear weapons technology) with a country that has such problematic relations with the non-proliferation regime as the DPRK.” Grossi emphasized that Russia, as a recognized nuclear weapons state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, will abide by its obligations and refrain from trading in nuclear weapons technology.
Russia’s obligations and role as a permanent member of the UNSC
Grossi emphasized that Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is aware of its responsibilities. He expressed hope that Russia would continue to honor its commitments in dealing with North Korea.
The recent summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny space center in eastern Russia was their first meeting in more than four years. The meeting raised concerns as Pyongyang sought to strengthen military ties with Moscow while ramping up its weapons development efforts.
The IAEA’s role and hope for involvement
Grossi noted that Russia could play a constructive role in helping North Korea build ties with the IAEA or establish confidence-building measures with other countries, including South Korea. He stressed the importance of maintaining opportunities for cooperation with North Korea, especially as security cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan continues to grow.
IAEA concerns over North Korea’s nuclear activities
Addressing the situation regarding North Korea’s nuclear complex, Grossi expressed concern about “very concerned elements.” He stressed that the IAEA has seen signs of activity near North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which remains ready for a possible nuclear test. Grossi reiterated the agency’s interest in working with North Korea to address these issues.
“We have a program that has absolutely no oversight, no interaction with an independent watchdog, or nuclear safety expertise,” he said, stressing that his agency is following related developments with “tremendous interest.”
“We are available, we are committed and of course we want North Korea to cooperate with us.”
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