North Korea Destroys Tower At Nuclear Plant

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times on the Web
June 27, 2008 By Choe Sang-Hun
SEOUL, South Korea -- With international TV networks filming the scene, North Korea blew up the most visible symbol of its nuclear program on Friday in a gesture demonstrating its commitment to stop making plutonium for weapons.
The 60-foot-tall cooling tower at the North's main nuclear power plant was blasted away shortly after 4 p.m. Friday before an audience of international TV cameras, reported South Korea's MBC-TV. MBC has a crew at the demolition site in Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
When internationally televised later Saturday, the collapse of the concrete structure, the most conspicuous part of the North's main nuclear complex, bore witness to the incremental progress that has been made in American-led multilateral efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.
On Thursday, North Korea submitted its first significant — although partial — account of its arms programs. Almost simultaneously, President Bush announced that Washington was removing North Korea from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, and issued a proclamation lifting some sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act.
The Yongbyon complex, built around a Soviet-era nuclear reactor, is the North’s only known source of plutonium. North Korea had started disabling the reactor and other parts of the complex last year under an agreement with the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.
Under the deal, North Korea has been receiving fuel aid from the five nations. But it was not obliged to destroy any of its nuclear facilities until further talks are held to sort out what rewards it will get in return.
South Korean and U.S. officials welcomed the early demolition of the cooling tower as an encouraging sign of North Korea’s commitment to a broader deal under which Washington hopes to eradicate all the North’s nuclear assets.
“By demolishing the tower, North Korea appears to demonstrate that it would not produce any more plutonium,” said Kim Yeon-chul, a North Korea expert at the Asiatic Research Center at Korea University in Seoul.
The cooling tower carries waste heat from the reactor. With the Communist government keeping its nuclear activities shrouded in secrecy, plumes of steam curling out from the tower into the atmosphere in spy satellite photographs provided outside observers with the most visible sign of operations at Yongbyon.
It also reminded the rest of the world of the operations’ dangerous implications. North Korea shocked the world in October 2006 by detonating a nuclear bomb in an underground test. It is also suspected by U.S. officials of providing nuclear technology to countries like Syria.
The tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild. North Korea also has been disabling — though not destroying — more sensitive parts of the nuclear complex, such as the 5-megawatt reactor, a plant that makes its fuel and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from its spent fuel.
“It’s symbolic. But in real terms, whether demolishing or not a cooling tower that has already been disabled doesn’t make much difference,” said Lee Ji-sue, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Myongji University.
The demolition also shows that North Korea has concluded that the Yongbyon complex, in service for several decades, has served its purpose after producing an unknown number of nuclear weapons, Mr. Lee said.
U.S. officials have accused North Korea of hiding an uranium-enrichment program, a charge that the North’s declaration on Thursday failed to address.