- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

The State Department has asked Congress to set aside money for an organization charged with building nuclear reactors in North Korea and supplying the communist state with fuel oil a move that critics said signaled a willingness by the Bush administration to renegotiate a defunct agreement with Pyongyang.
In the past week, the State Department asked Congress to add $3.5 million to the 2003 budget to fund the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), created in 1995 to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea and provide heavy fuel oil shipments to North Korea until the new reactors came on line.
State Department officials yesterday insisted that the new money would be set aside only as a drip feed for the organization to pay administrative costs and salaries for KEDO in 2003.
But other administration and congressional staff said the decision leaves the administration the option to renegotiate the 1994 agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
In December, the White House told Congress it would not request funding for KEDO for 2003.
Under a 1994 deal called the Agreed Framework, the United States pledged to build the new power plants and supply fuel oil. In exchange, North Korea agreed to mothball its single working nuclear reactor, stop construction on two other reactors and seal spent fuel rods under international supervision.
The used fuel can be reprocessed into plutonium and made into nuclear weapons.
Light-water reactors are considered proliferation-resistant because they produce less plutonium than the older models used by North Korea.
The concrete for the foundations of the new power plants has been poured, but little else has been done at the construction site on North Korea's east coast.
The United States halted fuel-oil shipments in December after saying that North Korea had admitted it had a secret program to enrich uranium, which like plutonium can be used to make atom bombs.
Both Washington and Pyongyang have said that the 1994 deal is now essentially defunct.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Wall Street Journal, "We would need a new arrangement and not just going back to the existing Agreed Framework."
"The East Asia desk at the State Department succeeded in convincing the secretary of state to try to keep KEDO alive in case there is an Agreed Framework, Part 2," one Republican congressional staffer told UPI. "This is a huge retreat for the administration."
Earlier this week, President Bush offered North Korea the potential carrot of energy and agricultural aid once it had verifiably dismantled its nuclear program.
In South Korea, meanwhile, Defense Minister Lee Jun said the nation needed to prepare for a "worst-case scenario" in the escalating nuclear standoff between North Korea and the United States.
"I believe a war on the Korean Peninsula would be inevitable if the North's nuclear issue could not be resolved peacefully and the United States attacks North Korea," Mr. Lee told a hearing at the National Assembly.
The South Korean capital, Seoul, with about 25 million people in the city and suburbs, lies within range of North Korean rockets and artillery.
The city was destroyed during the North Korean invasion that triggered the 1950-53 Korean War.
In Beijing yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said there was "no quick-fix solution" to the present crisis.
"It's going to be a very slow process to make sure that we achieve this in the right way," said Mr. Kelly, who visited South Korea earlier and left yesterday for Singapore in an effort to defuse the crisis.

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