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N. Korea in row with KEDO over nuke reactor site equipment

All Headlines 14:14 December 30, 2009

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has been resisting repeated calls by an international consortium to hand over cranes, excavators and other equipment left from the now-halted construction of light-water reactors in the country's eastern area, South Korea's foreign ministry said Wednesday.

"The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) has sent letters each year to North Korea calling for the transfer of the assets which belong to KEDO," the ministry said.

But the North has maintained that it won't allow the equipment to be returned unless KEDO resumes work on the project, it added.

KEDO, jointly created by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, was tasked with constructing a light-water reactor nuclear power plant in North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework between Pyongyang and Washington. As part of the deal, the North froze its nuclear activity in return for U.S. promises to provide two non-military nuclear reactors.

But construction at the site was formally terminated in 2006, with roughly 30 percent of the project completed, amid suspicions that the secretive communist nation was working on a clandestine program to enrich uranium.

KEDO workers exited the Sinpo site, leaving related equipment and materials worth about 45.5 billion won (US$40 million) there, including hundreds of cranes, excavators, trucks, buses and 6,500 tons of steel, mostly from South Korea. Seoul spent US$1.1 billion on the project.

The consortium, however, maintains its existence in order to settle financial and legal obligations stemming from the termination of the multi-billion-dollar project.

The ministry refused to confirm a news report earlier in the day that North Korea has already moved the equipment and materials from the site. The JoongAng Ilbo, a major daily here, cited government sources who said after viewing satellite photos that some of the equipment may already be in use by the North's military.

"We have no access to the site. So it is hard to confirm the report," a ministry official said.

Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, served as executive director of KEDO from 1995-1997.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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