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30 March 2001

The South Korean president Kim Dae-jung has gone to Washington in order to try and enlist president Bush’s support for the ‘sunshine’ policy of engagement with North Korea.

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.

However, Seoul and Washington may be at odds over the provision of electricity aid for North Korea.

Washington believes that electricity aid is a strategic issue and that it should be linked to the implementation of the 1994 nuclear accord with North Korea. On the other hand, South Korea thinks that electricity aid is an inter-Korean issue, and is part of a wide range of contracts launched since last June. Advisors to president Bush have recommended that he: “Avoids making any commitments to foreign governments that would prejudice his ability to refine US policy towards North Korea.” Under the 1994 ‘Agreed Framework’, North Korea had agreed that it would mothball a heavy water reactor that had been suspected to be a part of a weapons development programme, in exchange for two safer light water reactors and for supplies of fuel oil.

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

North Korea is now demanding the provision of interim electricity aid. “The prospect for the provision of light water reactors under the Agreed Framework is becoming increasingly gloomy,” the North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said.

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