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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 26, May 1998

North Korea Sounds Alarm on Framework Agreement

North Korea is threatening to restart its existing, heavy-water nuclear reactors, suspended since the October 1994 US-North Korea Framework Agreement stipulating the construction of replacement, light-water facilities. According to North Korea, the threat is a reaction to the US failing to fulfil its obligations relating to the new reactors and the interim provision of fuel to the country. See Documents and Sources for a 8 May Foreign Ministry statement detailing North Korea's grievances. The US reacted promptly and with dismay to the statement. According to Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, speaking in London on 8 May:

"The concern that we have obviously about the North Korean statement is that anything that would happen to undermine the integrity of that [1994] agreement, either from the North Korean side or from outside, would be in our view lamentable and regrettable..."

The same day, State Department spokesperson James Foley insisted the US was honouring its obligations, referring specifically to his confident expectation that "by the end of this year we will have provided the amount of heavy fuel that we have pledged to provide."

In Beijing on 14 May, North Korea's Ambassador to China, Chu Chang-Jun, emphasised the seriousness of the situation: "Since the United States is delaying its promises and commitments, some of our officials are saying that it is rather difficult to believe the United States, so we should continue [with our existing plants]... The present situation makes us doubt whether the light-water reactors can be completed by the year 2003..." The same day, a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, Zhu Bangzao, observed:

"We hope the relevant parties will treasure the achievements, carry out in earnest the agreements, continue dialogues and consultations, and handle the relevant issues with a constructive attitude, so as to seek a final settlement of the nuclear issue."

Reports: N. Korea may scrap nuclear accord, Associated Press, 8 May; US denies reneging on N. Korea deal, Associated Press, 8 May; N. Korea warns may restart nuke program, United Press International, 8 May; US worried about N. Korean nuclear statement, Reuters, 8 May; North Korea delivers nuclear warning, Reuters, 14 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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