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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 06:26 GMT
US wants N Korea fuel cut
North Korean Taepodong 1 missile
North Korea is under pressure to disarm
US President George W Bush says he will cut off oil shipments to North Korea unless the Communist regime dismantles its nuclear weapons programme.

"The November shipment is the last one," a senior US official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

1994 Agreed Framework
West to supply fuel oil and build 2 nuclear reactors
N Korea to freeze suspected nuclear weapons programme
N Korea still has to allow in UN weapons inspectors
US fears N Korea had extracted plutonium for 2 nuclear bombs before 1994

But South Korea, which is thought to favour continuing shipments to the impoverished North over the winter, said the subject needed further consultation between the US and its allies.

The shipments, which are sent as aid under a 1994 accord designed to limit North Korea's nuclear ambitions, have been thrown into doubt by Pyongyang's admission last month that it was enriching uranium.

The Administration's announcement puts it at odds with South Korea, only hours ahead of a crucial meeting on the issue.

Mr Bush's decision came at a meeting with his national security advisers on Wednesday.

In contrast, South Korea has called for US oil shipments to the impoverished North to continue.

The issue is expected to dominate talks between the members of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (Kedo) - the US, Japan, South Korea and the European Union - when they meet in New York later on Thursday.

1994 agreement

The US sends approximately 500,000 tonnes of oil to North Korea each year.

US President George W Bush
President Bush discussed the issue with advisers on Wednesday
The shipment is part of the 1994 deal known as the Agreed Framework, in which the US promised to provide the country with fuel as well as two nuclear reactors, in return for a freeze on its nuclear weapons programme.

But Washington considers that Pyongyang nullified the pact, after confessing to a US envoy last month that it was trying to build nuclear weapons with enriched uranium.

There is now almost no support in the US Congress for continuing the fuel deliveries, because of the violation of the agreement.

South Korea's fears

But both South Korea and Japan doubt that stopping oil deliveries would persuade North Korea to terminate its nuclear weapons programme.

They fear it would instead lead to a revival of an earlier, plutonium-based nuclear programme.

"Oil shipments to North Korea must continue until January," said South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun on Wednesday.

"I have keenly felt that a hard-line only policy towards North Korea would leave us little to manoeuvre," he said.

Meanwhile, North Korea has repeated its call for the US to sign a non-aggression pact before it considers scrapping its weapons programme.

"We want the United States to legally guarantee a non-aggression treaty, then our side is ready to address the US security concerns," the North's Consul-General in Hong Kong, Ri To-sop, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

06 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
19 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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