North Korea May Shut Down Its Reactor

South Korean news sources are reporting that North Korea may go ahead and shut down its nuclear reactor.

North Korea may be preparing to shut down its main nuclear reactor, news reports said Tuesday, renewing hopes that Pyongyang will comply with a disarmament agreement days after it missed a deadline to shutter the facility.

The Yongbyon reactor was still in operation, but there was a high possibility that movement of cars and people at the site seen in satellite photos could be linked to a shutdown,
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed intelligence official. The Dong-a Ilbo daily carried a similar report.

An official at the National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s main spy agency, told The Associated Press they were “following and analyzing some peculiar movements” around the reactor in North Korea, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

A hopeful sign, if true.

In a related story, it appears that one of North Korea’s issues in not complying with the deadline, that being charges that the North Korean government is laundering money through a bank in are in fact false.

Charges by the U.S. Treasury Department that a small bank in Macau knowingly laundered counterfeit U.S. currency on behalf of North Korea have no basis in fact, according to a confidential audit ordered by the government of the Chinese enclave


On the basis of the allegations, the Treasury department on March 14 blacklisted the tiny family controlled bank, which now is on the verge of being driven out of business.

The Bush administration now says it approves the release of $25 million originally frozen in Macau at Washington’s behest, but portions of this Banco Delta Asia money tied to North Korea apparently have not been received by the regime’s leaders. Consequently, they missed Saturday’s deadline to begin dismantling a nuclear reactor as agreed to on Feb. 13 as part of an agreement with the United States and four other nations.

“From our investigations it is apparent that … the Bank did not introduce counterfeit U.S. currency notes into circulation,” the Ernst & Young audit said, noting that large cash deposits from North Korea were routinely screened for counterfeits by the Hong Kong branch of an unidentified bank with U.S. operations.

As Kevin Drum rightly points out, “this is a big deal.” These fallacious charges have held back talks with North Korea and, let’s face it, pretty seriously threatened our national security. Even if the charges were true, surely they could have been handled better–at least more discreetly–than they were in this instance.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Triumph says:

    I’m sure the opportunist liberal Bill Richardson will take sole credit for this one–he’s becoming the Jessie Jackson of the 2008 race.

  2. Bithead says:

    Two comments;
    1:Deja Poo.
    2: Even if true, is this Nork trying to wrngle itself an easier time of it, arranging for a less demanding west?