February 17, 2008


U.S. visitors optimistic about N. Korea:
The delegation finds Pyongyang open to discussions about shutting down its nuclear facilities. (Barbara Demick, 2/17/08, Los Angeles Times)

The former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory said Saturday that North Korea is serious about denuclearizing and is willing to contemplate a program such as that used to help former Soviet republics destroy their nuclear weapons.

"This is a big deal," said Siegfried Hecker, referring to North Korea's accomplishments so far in shutting down its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang.

Hecker, a professor at Stanford University, had returned earlier in the day from a four-day trip to North Korea, where he said he enjoyed "remarkable access" to North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Hecker compared the high-security compound he visited in North Korea to the national security research institution in Los Alamos, N.M. He said he observed an exceptional working relationship between North Korean technicians and U.S. teams supervising the dismantling of a nuclear reactor, a factory to make nuclear fuel rods and a reprocessing plant, which was used to make weapons-grade plutonium.

"My feeling coming away from this visit is that the level of cooperation is good, better than I've seen in the 10 years I've been visiting the facility," said Joel Wit, a former State Department official who traveled with Hecker.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2008 12:06 AM
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