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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global governing body responsible for promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology — and monitoring its nefarious use around the world — appointed a new director general to run the organization on Tuesday, according to an announcement on the IAEA’s website.
The new IAEA chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, is set to take control of the agency at a moment when diplomatic efforts over the fate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have been stuck for weeks.
He will also begin the job with no IAEA presence in the DPRK: the agency and its inspectors were kicked out of the country one decade ago.
“I’m of course delighted that the members of the Board of Governors have given me very strong support,” Grossi said after winning the organization’s leadership vote.
“The work of the agency is of the essence for international peace and security — this is clear — for all of us,” he said. “It is also essential for development — for so many things that countries that are members of this agency care.”
Grossi has worked at the IAEA since 2010 and is currently Argentina’s ambassador to the agency, a report by Reuters said.
According to the IAEA, because the agency no longer has personnel on the ground in the DPRK to monitor nuclear developments there, they rely instead on “open-source information and satellite imagery.”
But one expert told NK News that despite the IAEA’s long absence from North Korea — the DPRK withdrew its membership in 1994 and kicked out nuclear inspectors in 2009 — the agency would likely be ready for the job if negotiations do end up reaching a breakthrough.
“I understand that if a deal were to be reached with Pyongyang calling for the IAEA’s assistance in implementation, the agency could have staff in the country in a matter of days,” said Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and contributor to NK News‘s sister site NK Pro.
“The agency remains on standby for a role in verifying and implementing a denuclearization agreement with North Korea,” he said.
And as for the new IAEA leader, Panda said that “Grossi will likely steer a steady ship on the agency’s attitude toward Korean peninsula issues.”
It remains to be seen if the IAEA will be allowed back into North Korea after the organization’s new change in leadership.
Grossi is expected to begin the new job no later than January 1, 2020, according to the IAEA. He will be the sixth head of the agency since 1957, the year it was founded.
The previous Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, passed away on July 18.
Featured image: IAEA