News

DATE=1/7/97
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
TITLE=KOREA / NUCLEAR (L-ONLY)
BYLINE=MAX RUSTON
DATELINE=NEW YORK

INTRO: REPRESENTATIVES FROM NORTH KOREA WILL BE IN NEW YORK WEDNESDAY TO SIGN AGREEMENTS WITH AN INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM CONCERNING THE CONSTRUCTION OF TWO NUCLEAR REACTORS IN NORTH KOREA. FROM NEW YORK, V-O-A'S MAX RUSTON REPORTS THE AGREEMENT IS EXPECTED TO MARK A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA TO BUILD CLOSER TIES AFTER DECADES OF HOSTILITY.

TEXT: THE AGREEMENTS DEAL WITH CONTRACTING ARRANGEMENTS, THE PROVISION OF SERVICES AND REGULATIONS CONCERNING ACCESS TO THE PROJECT SITE IN NORTH KOREA. PARTIES SIGNING THE AGREEMENTS INCLUDE NORTH KOREA AND THE KOREAN PENINSULA ENERGY DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION, KNOWN AS KEDO. KEDO IS A CONSORTIUM CREATED BY SOUTH KOREA, THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN. IT WAS SET UP TO IMPLEMENT AN AGREEMENT UNDER WHICH PYONGYANG PROMISED TO DISMANTLE ITS WEAPONS-GRADE NUCLEAR PROGRAM IN RETURN FOR SAFER LIGHT-WATER REACTORS.

NORTH KOREA HAS LONG BEEN REPORTED TO BE TRYING TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR WEAPONS. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC INSTABILITY IN NORTH KOREA HAVE RAISED CONCERNS THAT PYONGYANG MIGHT ATTEMPT TO SELL NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO TERRORIST GROUPS OR USE THEM IN A CONFLICT WITH THE SOUTH.

THE SIGNING OF THE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT PROTOCOLS IN NEW YORK COMES SIX MONTHS AFTER THEY WERE NEGOTIATED. TENSIONS BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO DELAYS IN THE PROJECT. THOSE TENSIONS WERE HEIGHTENED LATE LAST YEAR BY THE INCURSION OF A NORTH KOREAN SUBMARINE INTO SOUTH KOREAN WATERS. LAST MONTH, NORTH KOREA APOLOGIZED FOR THE INCURSION, CLEARING THE WAY FOR FURTHER PROGRESS IN THE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM.

KEDO IS EXPECTED TO SEND A SURVEY TEAM TO NORTH KOREA NEXT MONTH TO DISCUSS PRACTICAL ISSUES CONCERNING CONSTRUCTION OF THE POWER PLANTS. (SIGNED)

NEB/NY/MPR/RRM

07-Jan-97 6:19 PM EST (2319 UTC)