North Korea's Nuclear Plans May Foil Talks: New Agreement Could Collapse

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Published reports that North Korea may be renewing its nuclear weapons program are likely to harden opposition in Congress and among foreign nations to assisting the communist state with its energy needs, several officials said yesterday.

The reports that the North Koreans are digging an underground complex north of Pyongyang that may be used to build nuclear weapons, attributed to U.S. intelligence agencies, appeared this week in Time and the New York Times, worrying officials in the administration and Congress.

"Anything that raises Congress' doubts about North Korea's intention to carry out the agreed framework doesn't help," a State Department official said yesterday. Some members of Congress, he said, "have questioned it from the very beginning, and some others have more recent concerns."

Under the so-called nuclear framework accord, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program. In exchange the United States promised yearly deliveries of heavy fuel, a program to build two light-water nuclear reactors for peaceful energy use and the gradual easing of economic sanctions.

The framework accord's energy assistance programs are administered by a newly created consortium called the Korean Pennsula Enegy Development Corp., or KEDO.

"The North has simply ignored its commitment to dialogue as stipulated in the accord," said Daryl Plunk, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

"But the major criticism of the framewwork accord is that it leaves the entire nuclear program in North Korean hands," Mr. Plunk said.

"There are no inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency required, even though Pyongyang signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.

The U.S. commitment to deliver about 500,000 tons heavy oil a year to North Korea, at an estimated cost of $60 million a year, is supposed to be funded half through U.S. money and half through solicitations from other nations. But the spreading financial crisis has made payments difficult for many Asian countries, and only the European Union has kicked in this year, with roughly $18 million. …