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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

Major Breakthrough in Implementing US-North Korea Framework Agreement

In Seoul on December 15, the October 1994 US-North Korea Framework Agreement to suspend and replace North Korea's nuclear power plants with proliferation and diversion protected Light-Water Reactors (LWRs) came an important step closer to implementation when the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) - the international consortium charged with carrying out the Agreement - and the Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) - the prime contractors - signed a US$4.6 billion 'Turnkey Contract' which should now allow construction to proceed. Seventy percent of the contract (US$3.2 billion) is being paid for by South Korea, with the other contributors being Japan (US$1 billion), the US (US$115 million) and the EU (US$80 million). US$205 million of funds still remains to be designated. KEPCO, which has been conducting preliminary work on the proposed site of the two new reactors (Kumho, in north-east North Korea), now expects to be able to complete construction of the first reactor in 2007 and the second in 2008. The original target date for completion was 2003.

According to KEDO's Executive Director, Desaix Anderson, who signed the Turnkey Contract with KEPCO President Choi Soo-byung: "Today's event reflects the improving political climate surrounding the Korean Peninsular…This is an enormously complicated and challenging project. To the DPRK [North Korea], the project is a significant experiment with the outside world, a test as to whether engagement is possible and mutually beneficial…" The development was loudly applauded in Washington, where State Department spokesperson James Foley observed (December 15): "The United States welcomes the announcement… KEPCO is the prime contractor for construction of two modern, proliferation-resistant 1,000 megawatt light-water nuclear reactors… The Turnkey Contract should allow this important and complex international consortium project to proceed expeditiously. … Indeed, this important step is a milestone in the international cooperative effort of all the parties in implementing the Agreed Framework." In Brussels on December 15, European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten described the Contract as "a major contribution to stability in the region."

On December 14, Japan announced the lifting of a ban on food aid to North Korea, imposed after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile over Japanese territory in August 1998.

Note: on November 28, US businessman Donald Trump, currently considering whether to run for the US Presidency as Reform Party candidate, gave his assessment of the Agreed Framework. Speaking on CNN TV, Trump railed, echoing a prevalent sentiment within Republican ranks: "We're a bunch of saps. There's no question that North Korea is developing missiles. We give them nuclear power plants. We give them tremendous aid because we thought we could bribe them into stop developing. Well, they're developing, so much so that South Korea is now developing their own missile systems in order to protect. And I'm really not sure I can blame them. … Would you rather have a very, very serious chat with them now? And, if necessary, you might have to do something fairly drastic? Or would you rather have to go after them in five years when they have more nuclear warheads and missiles than we do?"

Reports: Trump calls Yeltsin 'a disaster', Associated Press, November 28; Japan says to lift sanctions against N. Korea, Reuters, December 14; Japan to lift North Korea sanctions, Associated Press, December 14; Nuke reactors to be built in N. Korea, Associated Press, December 15; KEPCO, KEDO sign N. Korea reactor deal, Reuters, December 15; N. Korea reactors likely not ready until 2007 - KEPCO, Reuters, December 15; EU welcomes North Korea reactor deal, Reuters, December 15; N. Korea getting nuclear reactors, Associated Press, December 15; KEPCO signs final agreement to build two nuclear-power plants in North Korea, Korea Times, December 15; Text - Foley statement on KEDO Turnkey Contract, United States Information Service, December 15.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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