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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Says UN Can Verify Fuel

VIENNA -- North Korea said Tuesday there still is time for UN inspectors to verify that fuel being removed from a nuclear reactor is not being diverted to make arms. But with the United Nations considering sanctions, which North Korea has likened to an act of war, chances appeared slim that the International Atomic Energy Agency would get the full access it wants. Russian officials, meanwhile, said Tuesday that sanctions against North Korea should be imposed only as a last resort if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the nuclear dispute with the former Soviet ally. "Russia wants a diplomatic, political solution to the problem of the North Korean nuclear program," Valery Denisov of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asia Department told journalists. The Russian statements struck a different tone than those of South Korean President Kim Young-sam, who told reporters in Seoul on Tuesday that during talks in Moscow last week he had won Boris Yeltsin's approval for sanctions. North Korea made its assertions in a letter released in Vienna, where the IAEA board of governors is considering more pressure on North Korea to unveil its secretive nuclear program. Fuel rods have been removed from an experimental reactor in a way that "preserves the technical possibility" to determine whether any fuel has been diverted, said the letter from Pak Yong Nam, head of North Korea's atomic energy department. He accused IAEA officials of "wrong conclusions and unreasonable behavior." IAEA director Hans Blix has told the UN Security Council that fuel rods were removed in a way that precludes inspectors from determining whether nuclear material was diverted previously. North Korea maintains that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful, but its refusal to allow full inspections has deepened suspicions that it is developing nuclear arms. A North Korean envoy in Vienna, Yun Ho Jin, said the UN agency passed up opportunities to check on fuel in the reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. "The evidence clearly shows that some officials of the agency secretariat are ready to distort even technicalities in favor of the ulterior intentions to implement instructions of a superpower," he said. North Korea has repeatedly charged that the United States and its allies have tried to use nuclear inspections as a cover for military spying. Yun said North Korea would "never allow the inspection" of two sites the West suspects are undeclared nuclear waste storage areas because information about them came from U.S. intelligence sources. Failure to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons could seriously undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the centerpiece of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear arms.There also is concern that Japan and South Korea might feel compelled to develop nuclear stockpiles as a deterrent.