February 18, 1995 in Nation/World

Nuclear Accord With N. Korea Hits New Snag

Barry Schweid Associated Press
 

The U.S. accord with North Korea to halt its suspect nuclear program, already in jeopardy over the communist regime’s refusal to accept South Korean reactors, is running into another problem: How 500,000 metric tons of U.S. fuel oil will be used.

The first shipment, 50,000 metric tons, has arrived in North Korea for use in a civilian thermal power plant. The idea is to wean North Korea away from using an experimental reactor that is believed to be part of an ambitious nuclear weapons program.

But over U.S. objections, North Korea intends to divert some of the fuel to military purposes, and the dispute is now in negotiations with Pyongyang along with the one over South Korean reactors, Defense Undersecretary Walter Slocombe said Friday.

“We have told them expressly not to use the fuel for military purposes,” the Pentagon official said.

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the reported diversion of fuel should be taken “as a warning sign that the deal we made with North Korea was ill-founded and that the North Koreans are not to be trusted.”

Slocombe also acknowledged the agreement reached last October did not explicitly require North Korea to replace the reactor and two others near completion with two light-water reactors. But he said “it was clearly understood during the negotiations.”

He said North Korea must accept the reactors because South Korea was paying for a large portion of the new technology Pyongyang would receive and for other reasons that he did not explain in a presentation to the private Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Signaling a slight willingness to compromise, Slocombe said the South Korean reactors could be delivered through a third country. But disputing recent reports, he said China, which helped arrange the accord, had not suggested it might supply Chinese reactors.

Later, the State Department spokeswoman, Christine Shelly, said a report the reactors may be produced in the name of an American company was “without foundation.”

North Korea, meanwhile, reiterated on Friday that it was prepared to scrap the agreement and rejected any suggestion that its resistance to accepting South Korean-made reactors is just a bargaining ploy.

“We have never made an empty talk. We mean what we say,” said the North’s Communist Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

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