Hecker shares findings from North Korea trip

North Korea has shut down its key nuclear facilities and is discussing how to retrain workers at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, CISAC Co-Director Siegfried S. Hecker said Feb. 20 following a five-day visit to the country.

"The disablement actions at the three key nuclear facilities--that is [the] fuel fabrication plant, the reactor, and the reprocessing plant--those disablement actions are just about complete at this point," Hecker told reporters during a press conference at Stanford. "In my judgment, they are very serious actions, and they will require serious time and effort to restart those facilities."

Hecker, a research professor of management science and engineering and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, visited scientists at Yongbyon and government officials in Pyongyang from Feb. 12 to 16. Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official, and Keith Luse, a staffer for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, accompanied him during a private visit that also involved discussions on formalizing health and educational exchanges between the two nations. "All the way around, it was a very good visit, a very professional one on the DPRK's side," Hecker said, referring to the country's acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

According to Hecker, "significant hurdles" remain before North Korea will offer a "complete declaration," or complete list of its nuclear program, both past and present. The North Koreans told Hecker that the process has been delayed because other parties in the six-party talks, which aim to find a peaceful resolution to the country's nuclear weapons program, have been slow in delivering compensation such as heavy fuel oil. Despite this, Hecker said, cooperation between the U.S. and North Korean technical teams was excellent during the visit.  "The DPRK wants these obligations [of the other member nations] to be met quickly so they can move on to the next stage, that's the stage of dismantlement," he said, referring to agreements reached Oct. 3, 2007, during talks to achieve a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula.

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