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Reason to demand renegotiations on LWRs

Posted March. 05, 2001 13:57,   


Since the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush, some Republican congressmen and their supporters have begun calling for a review of the Agreed Framework signed by Washington and Pyongyang in Geneva in 1994.

Three senior Representatives of the lower House, including Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the International Relations Committee, sent a letter to Bush on March 2, asking him not to abide by the pact. Former U.S. ambassador to Seoul James Laney also said on March 1 that the U.S. should seek an alternative to the Geneva accord.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said before they joined the Bush administration that Washington should renegotiate the plan such that the U.S. builds less expensive thermal power plants in North Korea instead of light-water reactors (LWRs).

Under the Geneva accord, a U.S. led consortium known as the Korea Energy Development Organization (KEDO) agreed to build two nuclear power plants for Pyongyang in return for its pledge to end the development of nuclear weapons. Armitage and Wolfowitz also raised fears that the North might extract plutonium from the reactors to make nuclear bombs. In spite of the calls, observers said there was almost no possibility that the Bush government would be able to convince the North to review the agreement.

A KEDO official in New York said Saturday, ``Since the reactor construction progress is already well underway, it cannot be reviewed.`` Any changes in the agreement would have to be approved by North Korea, as well as by the members of KEDO`s executive committee. The panel is chaired by Chang Sun-Sup, chief of the South Korean light-water reactor project support team.

Those calling for renegotiations cite the heavy financial burden on Washington not only to build the reactors but also to subsidize North Korea`s power industry until the project is completed. Under the pact, the U.S. is obliged to supply North Korea with 500,000 tons of heavy oil annually until the first light-water reactor is up and running. The sharp rise in international oil prices pushed the cost of supplying oil to about $100 million last year from the original $30 million.

An official at the South Korean Embassy in Washington said, ``We haven`t responded to the calls for renegotiations since there haven`t been that many, but since we cannot rule out the possibility that the number will grow, we are prepared to address them.``