National

Japan’s nuke experts ready to help defang North Korea

Kyodo

Japan has told the United States it is ready to dispatch experts to North Korea to help the country dismantle nuclear facilities toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, government sources repeated.

If Washington and Pyongyang agree to demolish North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactor at Nyongbyon in the northwest, Tokyo would offer knowledge gained from decommissioning a similar reactor in eastern Japan, the sources said Friday.

Tokyo wants to be involved in developments related to North Korea amid concerns it has been ignored since the North kicked off a diplomatic outreach initiative early this year.

Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture is in the process of being decommissioned after operating from 1966 and 1998.

It is unclear whether North Korea would allow Japan to participate in the Nyongbyon dismantling process.

At his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

In a meeting in Tokyo involving high-ranking Japanese and U.S. officials after that summit, Japan offered to participate in the denuclearization process and shoulder initial costs related to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections in North Korea, the sources said.

North Korea is believed to have extracted plutonium used for weapons from spent fuel at the Nyongbyon reactor. Japan plans to send over experts on uranium enrichment at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture, the sources said.

Out of concern that areas around the nuclear facilities in Nyongbyon and Punggye-ri, in the northeast, could be contaminated, Japan also plans to provide decontamination technology used at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the triple core meltdown sparked by the March 2011 quake and tsunami, the sources added.