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S. Korea, U.S. halt talks on nuclear energy cooperation

All Headlines 04:59 September 28, 2012

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have called a halt to their sensitive negotiation on future nuclear energy cooperation, an informed source here said Thursday.

"Actual talks are deemed difficult this year," said the source well versed in the issue, requesting anonymity.

South Korea's Lee Myung-bak government "has decided to pass negotiations to the next administration," added the source. Lee is to retire in February.

Seoul instead plans to focus on efforts to publicize its position on the matter for the time being, the source said.

South Korean officials argue that the current pact with the U.S. is obsolete.

The existing pact, signed in 1974 and set to expire in 2014, bans South Korea from enriching uranium even for commercial purposes and reprocessing nuclear waste from about two dozen reactors using U.S.-supplied nuclear materials.

Seoul wants Washington to allow the expansion of its nonmilitary activities to meet its enhanced status as an exporter of nuclear plants.

But the U.S. has been reluctant, apparently out of concern over a negative impact on nonproliferation and arms control initiatives.

Speaking to Korean reporters here, Gary Samore, arms control coordinator at the White House National Security Council, said South Korean can continue to buy enrichment services from the U.S. and France and other international markets rather than having its own uranium-enrichment technology.

"So there is no danger that Korean industry will not be able to get access to low-enriched uranium," he said.

South Korea, however, points out that the restrictions in the existing accord are based on a view decades ago, when Washington was wary of Seoul's possible development of nuclear arms.

South Korea has proved its commitment to peaceful operation of nuclear reactors and it has abided by international obligations, according to officials in Seoul.



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