KEDO Pours Concrete for North Korean Nuclear Reactor
Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today
NEWS AND NEGOTIATIONS
THE KOREAN ENERGY Development Organization (KEDO) held a ceremony August 7 in Kumho, North Korea, to mark the pouring of the concrete foundation for the first light-water reactor (LWR) that the United States agreed to provide North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework.
Jack Pritchard, the U.S. representative to KEDO and State Department special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, attended the ceremony. Pritchard is the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea since former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did so in October 2000, and his presence was widely regarded as a signal of U.S. support for the Agreed Framework, which has been uncertain throughout the Bush administration.
Under the Agreed Framework, the United States agreed to construct two proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors in North Korea in exchange for a freeze on the country's nuclear program and eventual dismantlement of its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities. KEDO is the international consortium implementing the agreement. The first reactor was originally scheduled to be completed by 2003, but construction has fallen behind schedule and the reactor is not expected to be finished before 2008, barring further delays.
Washington's commitment to completing its obligations under the framework has been in question since President Bush put talks with Pyongyang on hold last year. The president subsequently indicated that the United States would like to resume negotiations with North Korea, but in his January 29 State of the Union address he then named the country a member of the "axis of evil," citing Pyongyang's attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and missile technology. (See ACT, March 2002.) On March 20, the Bush administration refused to certify that North Korea was fully complying with the Agreed Framework, a congressionally mandated condition for KEDO to receive U.S. funding. Bush waived the certification requirement, however, and funding for KEDO was not affected. (See ACT, April 2002.)
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker praised the pouring of concrete as evidence of the "tangible progress made in construction and the importance to the reactor project's ultimate success. …