North Korea First concrete has been poured at the site of the planned two-unit nuclear power plant in North Korea – amid US calls for the country to make the “same kind of progress” in meeting its international non-proliferation commitments.

The ceremony at the site in Kumho, on North Korea’s north-east coast, marks the latest milestone for the Korean peninsula energy development organisation, (KEDO). However, the Korean Information Service (KOIS), operated by the government of neighbouring South Korea, quoted a senior US official as saying that it would be “impossible” to complete the construction of safe nuclear reactors without North Korea’s commitment to its agreement to freeze nuclear weapons development activities. KOIS said the US special envoy for negotiations with North Korea, Jack Pritchard, told the concrete pouring ceremony: “Now is the time for us to see the same kind of tangible progress by North Korea in meeting its commitments under the agreed framework, to co-operate with the IAEA and to come into compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Plans to build two light water reactor units at the site are about six years behind schedule and completion of the units is not now expected before 2008. KEDO plans to deliver key components in mid-2005, but will not install them until inspections have been completed to verify North Korea’s former nuclear activities.

Mr Pritchard said the IAEA believes that, with North Korea’s “full co-operation”, it could still take at least three to four years to “verify the completeness and correctness of their nuclear declarations”.
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