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North Korea

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made of stocks of separated plutonium in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea; and if she will make a statement. (93213)

Following the answer my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) on 27 February 2006, Official Report, column 310W, our assessment remains the same: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) claims to have reprocessed the 8,000 spent fuel rods removed from the 25 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon in 1994. If these claims are true, the DPRK could have extracted sufficient plutonium for up to five nuclear warheads from this spent fuel.

We continue to believe the DPRK is pursuing efforts towards production of highly enriched uranium (HEU), based on centrifuge enrichment technology which the Pakistani scientist AQ Khan has admitted supplying to the DPRK. But we have no information on how successfully these attempts to produce HEU have been.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Chinese Foreign Minister on (a) sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, (b) restrictions on fuel supply and (c) a UN chapter seven inspections programme for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors at nuclear facilities. (93833)

Last week, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had discussions with several Foreign Ministers about the situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), including Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on 9 and 13 October. During these discussions, both agreed that the test carried out by the DPRK was a clear example of a threat to international peace and security and of the need for a robust response from the UN Security Council. They did not discuss the detail of that response.

On 14 October, UN Security Council Resolution 1718 was adopted unanimously. This is a tough resolution, aimed at clamping down on the regime and its programmes of concern. The sanctions are carefully targeted. They prohibit the export to the DPRK of sensitive goods and technology related to its nuclear and missile programmes. The resolution also bans luxury goods being exported to the DPRK and provides for the freezing of assets belonging to the regime and a ban on travel by regime figures to other countries.