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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pyongyang Removes Surveillance Devices

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea, defying world opinion, said Sunday it had begun removing UN monitoring equipment from a nuclear reactor at the center of the communist state's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang's announcement came after the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea had disabled surveillance devices the agency had placed at the 5-megawatt Yongbyon research reactor, which the United Nations believes was used to make plutonium capable of use in warheads.

The United States, Japan and South Korea urged North Korea to maintain the freeze on its nuclear facilities.

The Yongbyon plant had been closed under a 1994 agreement with the United States in which North Korea froze its reactors in exchange for shipments of oil and the construction of more proliferation-proof reactors.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said it began removing the surveillance devices after the UN nuclear watchdog had not acted on Pyongyang's demand this month to take the equipment away to allow the reactor to restart.

"This situation compelled the DPRK [North Korea] to immediately start the work of removing the seals and monitoring cameras from the frozen nuclear facilities for their normal operation to produce electricity," it said.

North Korea vowed to maintain a hard-line stance, accusing the United States and Japan of trying to isolate the communist state.

"It is the DPRK's invariable mode to react to the U.S. imperialists' hard-line policy with the toughest stand," KCNA said.

"To take a prudent stand and attitude rather than acting rashly by following the U.S. in the Korean problem is more beneficial to Japan's existence and security."

KCNA said North Korea needed to end the nuclear reactor freeze "because the U.S. unilaterally abandoned its commitment to supply heavy oil in compensation for the loss of electricity."

The United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union moved to halt the oil supplies in response to U.S. revelations of a North Korean nuclear weapons program using highly enriched uranium.

North Korea's move came two days after South Koreans elected a new president who campaigned against using pressure and sanctions to press Pyongyang to resolve the nuclear crisis.

North Korean state radio said the defeat of a conservative with hawkish policies toward Pyongyang and who decried the "sunshine policy" of engagement "demonstrates the fact that defeat awaits those who stir up confrontation."

The IAEA said North Korea broke most of the seals on Saturday and disabled the permanent surveillance cameras that had been installed at five facilities covered by the 1994 freeze.

The IAEA has been carrying out limited monitoring activity in North Korea since the early 1990s.

It has never been allowed to conduct intrusive inspections aimed at fleshing out a secret weapons program.

The IAEA has repeatedly called on Pyongyang to stick to the 1994 agreement and said it deplored North Korea's insistence that it has a right to develop nuclear weapons.