Japan will offer more than ¥300 million ($2.8 million) to help the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities if Pyongyang agrees to inspections, government officials said.
The offer is aimed at prompting North Korea to take action to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Japan and the United States view IAEA inspections as the first step toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
It also offers Japan a way to remain relevant in the international response to North Korea following announcements that both the United States and South Korea plan to hold summits with the North.
Japan plans to cover most of the ¥350 million to ¥400 million in initial costs thought needed to inspect the Nyongbyon nuclear complex, which includes a uranium enrichment plant, reactor and fuel-reprocessing facility, the officials said Saturday.
Japan also is considering offering more if the cost goes up, for example due to new facilities being revealed, the officials said.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono and IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano agreed in Vienna last month to work together more closely in the hopes of resuming inspections.
The IAEA has not had direct access to North Korean nuclear facilities since April 2009, when the North expelled its inspectors.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog set up a specialized team last August to prepare for the possibility of inspections resuming, so it can likely act quickly if an agreement is reached.
According to the South Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said during his March 5 meeting in Pyongyang with envoys from South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he is committed to denuclearization.
Kono might discuss ways to verify the denuclearization process when he meets one of the envoys, South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, in Tokyo on Monday to hear details of the talks in Pyongyang.
Japan is expected to work with the United States and South Korea to work out a road map for North Korea’s denuclearization based on a September 2005 joint statement that emerged from the six-party talks that included China and Russia.
The road map would likely outline several stages, with verification by IAEA inspectors at each stage, ultimately leading to the dismantling of the nuclear facilities and weapons.
A Foreign Ministry source said the process would require patience, because even figuring out the locations of all the nuclear facilities in North Korea will be a difficult task.