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7 March 2001

North Korea has warned that failure to find a solution to its energy crisis could endanger an agreement to keep its missile launching programme in suspended animation.

Seoul and Washington are at odds over electricity aid for North Korea.

Washington believes electricity aid is a strategic issue and should be linked to implementation of the 1994 nuclear accord with North Korea. South Korea thinks that electricity aid is an inter-Korean issue, part of a wide range of contracts launched since last June.

Under the 1994 'Agreed Framework', North Korea agreed to mothball a heavy water reactor suspected to be a part of a weapons development programme in exchange for two safer light water reactors and supplies of fuel oil.

Construction of the LWRs, due to come on stream in 2003, has been delayed for various reasons, and is at least four years behind schedule.

North Korea is now demanding interim electricity aid. "The prospect for provision of light water reactors under the Agreed Framework is becoming more gloomy," North Korea's foreign ministry spokesman said.

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