N. Korea Warns on Nuclear Freeze, Halts DOE Cleanup at Yongbyon

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DISTURBED BY what it sees as a U.S. failure to live up to its side of the 1994 U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework, Pyongyang has frozen U.S. cleanup activities at its Yongbyon nuclear waste site, and threatened on May 7 to "open and readjust" its other frozen nuclear facilities. In an official statement, Pyongyang protested that Washington has not kept its side of the agreement by not easing economic sanctions on North Korea, and allowing delays in construction of the light-water reactors (LWRs) and shipments of heavy fuel oil mandated in the nuclear accord.

State Department spokesman James Rubin announced on May 13 that, as required by the nuclear agreement, North Korea's nuclear facilities remained frozen under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, but that U.S. efforts to safely store Pyongyang's plutoniumbearing spent fuel in Yongbyon had been halted. The Department of Energy (DOE) has packaged all of the nuclear fuel elements from the Yongbyon reactor in steel storage canisters and was near completing the cleanup of scraps and sludge when Pyongyang halted work on April 28. DOE has pulled its people out of North Korea and as of the end of May, cleanup operations had not resumed.

Rubin emphasized that the United States intends to meet its Agreed Framework obligations. However, by the end of May, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the U.S.-led international consortium implementing the Agreed Framework, had delivered only 130,000 of the annual half-million tons of heavy fuel oil. Under the current schedule for fuel deliveries, KEDO has until October 20 to meet this year's quota, leaving only five months to deliver the remaining 74 percent of the promised fuel. …