- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

From combined dispatches
The Bush administration decided yesterday to cut off monthly shipments of fuel oil to North Korea under a 1994 nuclear agreement because of Pyongyang's recent admission it had a secret nuclear-weapons program.
Senior U.S. officials said the November shipment, which left Singapore for North Korea last month, would be the final one. Two more shipments in December and January had been contracted for.
Washington's decision came a day before a meeting in New York of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), which handles the oil deliveries, as well as the building of two light-water reactors in the reclusive state.
North Korea receives 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil a year, which is paid for mostly by the United States.
Japan, South Korea and the European Union, the other members of KEDO's executive board, have been much more cautious about taking drastic measures against the North. Some officials from these countries had expressed hope that the shipments would continue.
Within the Bush administration, however, there had been voices advocating stopping the delivery before it reaches the North Korean ports.
Frank Gaffney, a leading conservative Republican defense analyst, told Reuters news agency that letting the oil shipment proceed "signals to North Korea that the rhetoric being employed against them, if not empty, doesn't have immediate material effect."
He predicted there would be continuing pressure from South Korea, Japan and the State Department as well as threats from North Korea that could result in new fuel shipments and "further concessions" to Pyongyang in the months ahead.
North Korea had taken important steps to end its international isolation in recent months. But in October, confronted with U.S. intelligence data, the communist country conceded it had a covert program to produce highly enriched uranium, a key ingredient of nuclear weapons.
It has threatened to withdraw from the 1994 Agreed Framework, signed with the United States, if the fuel oil shipments are halted.
North Korea's economy is in desperate shape, and winter is approaching. Although KEDO's fuel oil shipments have been a major energy source, Russia and China are also providers.
In a separate development, a former U.S. diplomat who met with authorities in North Korea last week was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Pyongyang has decided against returning the captured spy ship USS Pueblo after indicating last month that it might do so.
Donald Gregg, president of the Korea Society and a former ambassador to South Korea, said yesterday that a deal for the Pueblo was hinted at in an Oct. 3 letter in which Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan invited him to visit Pyongyang.
But when Mr. Gregg raised the issue during his Nov. 2-5 talks with Mr. Kim and others, he said he was told, "The climate has changed. It's no longer an option."
Mr. Gregg said it was clear the North Koreans were referring to the dispute that erupted after North Korea admitted secretly pursuing a program to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has refused to resume any negotiations until the North verifiably eliminates the program.
Mr. Gregg, who served as U.S. ambassador to Seoul during the administration of the elder President Bush, said a decision to halt the fuel oil shipments could worsen the nuclear crisis.
He said it was clear to him from his talks in Pyongyang that the North Koreans want to resolve the matter through negotiations.
In Mr. Gregg's view not widely shared within the current Bush administration the suggestion of returning the Pueblo was North Korea's way of indicating its interest in improving relations with the United States.
"I thought it was a very good symbol, or could be" of the North's interest in better relations, he said.
He said he had first discussed the Pueblo's return in a visit to Pyongyang in the spring.
Mr. Gregg said that after he was told the Pueblo's return to U.S. custody was no longer an option, he asked to visit the ship, which has been docked near Pyongyang in recent years and used as an anti-American museum.
Mr. Gregg said the Pueblo was not at its usual mooring and he was told it had been returned to Wonsan, on the opposite coast of North Korea, where it had been held for decades after its capture on Jan. 23, 1968.
The capture of the Pueblo was one of the most shocking acts of communist aggression during the Cold War. North Korean patrol boats seized the intelligence-gathering ship in international waters, and one of the 83 U.S. crew members was killed. The rest were removed from the ship and held prisoner for 11 months.


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