Japan, South Korea and the USA have begun considering indefinitely delaying major parts deliveries that are needed to build two light water reactors (LWRs) in North Korea, according to a report from the Kyodo News Service.

The report quoted diplomatic sources and suggested that by suspending delivery, the three countries, which are executive board members of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO), would effectively freeze the scheme.

The stance was said to have been under discussion June meeting ­ Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group session ­ in Honolulu. Meeting participants included James Kelly, assistant US secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Lee Soo-hyuck, South Korea’s deputy foreign minister; and Mitoji Yabunaka, director general of Japan’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

Changes to the project were not mentioned in a joint statement following the meeting. The statement did say, however, that participation by South Korea and Japan in talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme ‘is indispensable’. Japan and South Korea have recently been sidelined from negotiations as North Korea insisted on dealing directly with the USA.

The statement added that the countries promised to seek a peaceful end to North Korea’s nuclear programme and said that if North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons programme it will improve its relations with the international community and the livelihood of its people.

Tensions have been mounting in the region since last October when US officials said North Korea admitted it had been covertly developing nuclear weapons. At talks in Beijing in April, the first high-level contact between Washington and Pyongyang since the standoff began, North Korea indicated it might surrender its nuclear programme in exchange for economic benefits and security guarantees.

The G8 nations have also recently called on North Korea to ‘visibly and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programme.’ It added that if it did not curb its aspirations to develop technology to produce nuclear weapons it would face ‘severe consequences.’