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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
US grants N Korea nuclear funds
Hammer and sickle flag in Pyongyang
Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the nuclear deal
The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.

In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors.

President Bush argued that the decision was "vital to the national security interests of the United States".

Deal under threat

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the agreement in recent weeks.

South Korean solider (l) and North Korean soldier (r) on the Korean border
The row has heightened tensions on the peninsula

It has been angered by President Bush's accusation that Pyongyang was part of an "axis of evil" producing weapons of mass destruction.

This annoyance was compounded by Washington's decision to withhold this year's certification that North Korea is keeping its side of the Agreed Framework.

It has systematically refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors into its nuclear facility at the Yongbyon research base north of the capital.


Pyongyang has justified its refusals by pointing out that the reactors are way behind schedule.

They were originally expected to have been completed next year, but now construction is not expected to even begin until August.

Another issue is the different interpretations of the inspections' timing.

According to the Framework, North Korea should be fully compliant with IAEA safeguards when "a significant proportion" of the project is completed.

The builders say that will be around May 2005, and given the inspections will take at least three years, this means that North Korea should start admitting inspectors now.

But Pyongyang believes that they should only allow the inspections to start, rather than finish, by that date.

The head of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre in Washington, a critic of the Agreed Framework, has warned that even when the new reactors are completed they may not be tamper-proof.

"These reactors are like all reactors, They have the potential to make weapons. So you might end up supplying the worst nuclear violator with the means to acquire the very weapons we're trying to prevent it acquiring," Henry Sokolski told the Far Eastern Economic Review.

See also:

03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul envoy in North Korea
22 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'may end' nuclear pact
21 Mar 02 | Media reports
North Korea slams war games
20 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'must talk' with US
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
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