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International relations

North Korea nuclear program a priority, IAEA chief says

Pyongyang's activities 'significantly expanded' since inspectors expelled in 2009

Amano speaks at a U.N. Security Council meeting April 2. (Photo by Kaori Yoshida)

UNITED NATIONS -- The Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs are among the "top items" on the International Atomic Agency's agenda, the head of the United Nations watchdog said Tuesday.

Speaking to a U.N. Security Council meeting on nonproliferation, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano warned that North Korea's program has "significantly expanded" since Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors in 2009.

Amano also said that since 2017, the IAEA has "intensified its efforts to monitor" the program and that the agency could respond "within weeks" to any request to send inspectors back if a deal is reached with the North to abandon the program.

On recent developments, Amano said that "activities at some facilities continued or developed further, while some other facilities appeared not to be operating."

But without access, the IAEA could not "confirm the nature and purpose of these activities," he said. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty turns 50 next year. The U.N. will host a preparatory committee meeting from late April to early May for the treaty's 2020 review conference.

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