Traces of Radioactive Isotope Found Over South Korea

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 13, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

Xen­on, an ele­ment that is found in trace amounts after nuc­le­ar weapons tests and oth­er nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies, was de­tec­ted by a South Korean nuc­le­ar reg­u­lat­ory ex­pert or­gan­iz­a­tion in June, Yon­hap News Agency re­por­ted.

The Korea In­sti­tute for Nuc­le­ar Safety de­tec­ted the pres­ence of the gaseous ele­ment three times in June, sources told the wire ser­vice. 

A nuc­le­ar weapons test by North Korea was con­duc­ted in Feb­ru­ary, but no signs of nuc­le­ar activ­ity em­an­ated from the North around the time the gas was dis­covered, ac­cord­ing to Yon­hap. Xen­on iso­topes break down re­l­at­ively quickly, so the de­tec­ted gas may not be from any re­cent nuc­le­ar activ­ity from the North, ac­cord­ing to a source for the Korean wire ser­vice. The rare iso­topes found over South Korea could have ori­gin­ated in Ja­pan, from ra­di­ation leaks stem­ming from the dam­aged Fukushi­ma Daii­chi nuc­le­ar fa­cil­ity, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted.

“Rel­ev­ant agen­cies are con­duct­ing an ana­lys­is, and that’s what we know of,” a South Korean De­fense Min­istry spokes­man told the Journ­al

A North Korean an­nounce­ment in April that a re­act­or and urani­um en­rich­ment plant at the Yongby­on com­plex would be ac­tiv­ated has not been de­tec­ted by the South, ac­cord­ing to Yon­hap’s sources, but the fa­cil­ity could have be­gun the start-up pro­cess in May.

Mean­while, South Korea’s spe­cial rep­res­ent­at­ive for peace and se­cur­ity af­fairs left the Asi­an na­tion for a three-day trip to Rus­sia, where he will meet with Rus­sia’s top ne­go­ti­at­or for Py­ongy­ang’s de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion, Yon­hap also re­por­ted.

“I plan to share de­tailed opin­ions on how to as­sess North Korea’s nuc­le­ar pro­grams and threats and dis­cuss how to push ahead with ef­forts to de­nuc­lear­ize the North dur­ing this vis­it,” the South Korean en­voy told Yon­hap.

A sev­enth round of meet­ings between the North and the South over the fu­ture of the shuttered Kaesong In­dus­tri­al Com­plex will be­gin on Wed­nes­day. Ne­go­ti­ations will hinge on mak­ing pro­gress on con­di­tions that South Korea as­serts are ne­ces­sary to pre­vent work stop­pages in the fu­ture, Yon­hap re­por­ted sep­ar­ately on Tues­day.

North Korea is also at­tempt­ing to im­prove dip­lo­mat­ic ties with vari­ous coun­tries in Africa, in a move that ob­serv­ers say is an at­tempt to es­cape the glob­al isol­a­tion that the Asi­an na­tion has faced dur­ing its pur­suit of nuc­le­ar weapons, ac­cord­ing to an­oth­er Yon­hap re­port. 

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