Russia urges N. Korea to halt uranium enrichment
Russia on Thursday urged North Korea to halt its uranium enrichment programme after the Stalinist state reported rapid progress on what some experts believe is a second way of making nuclear weapons.
The Russian foreign ministry called on Pyongyang "to declare a moratorium on all nuclear activity, including uranium enrichment, and invite IAEA specialists to examine its uranium enrichment facility and the Yongbyon nuclear centre."
It also called on its Soviet-era ally "to create favourable conditions for the restart of the six-party talks" by complying with existing United Nations resolutions on its weapons and nuclear programmes.
The Stalinist state on Wednesday rejected US demands to shut down the Yongbyon facility and once again defended its right to the peaceful of use of nuclear energy.
The announcement appeared to put a damper on diplomatic efforts to restart international negotiations that the North abandoned in April 2009 but has since officially sought to revive.
A US expert who visited the Yongbyon in November 2010 said the uranium enrichment plant and the experimental light-water reactor it was intended to provide fuel for appeared designed mainly for civilian nuclear power.
But he said the plant could readily be converted to produce highly enriched uranium for bombs while the reactor could be run to produce plutonium.
Russia is a member of the six-party negotiation but has lost much of its influence on North Korea since suspending most of the financial assistance it offered its neighbour in the Soviet era.
© 2011 AFP