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US Tries To Stop Oil Shipments to N. Korea - 2002-11-14

The United States is meeting with members of KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, Thursday in the hope of convincing its partners to stop shipping fuel oil to North Korea. The Bush administration decided Wednesday to halt future shipments, accusing Pyongyang of violating a 1994 anti-nuclear agreement by continuing to pursue its nuclear weapons program.

KEDO's Board of Directors from the United States, the European Union, South Korea and Japan is holding closed-door discussions which could determine the future of heavy fuel oil shipments to North Korea.

The United States is pushing for a consensus following its decision to cancel heavy fuel oil deliveries in mid-December, unless Pyongyang moves to dismantle its recently disclosed nuclear weapons program. A shipment which is expected to arrive in North Korea within days, will be delivered.

KEDO members are divided on the issue. South Korea and Japan favor continuing the oil shipments to ease the suffering of the impoverished North Korean people, especially during winter months.

Prior to the negotiations, U.S. Ambassador Charles Pritchard said he would brief his KEDO counterparts on recent talks in North Korea and Japan. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to give you a first hand account of some of the things that transpired over the last month or so to include Assistant Secretary Kelly and my trip to Pyongyang and hope to be able to come as we have always in the past on a census decision on the best next step to take," said Ambassador Pritchard.

KEDO, which operates by consensus, is responsible for implementing the 1994 agreement that permitted regular fuel oil shipments to Communist North Korea by the United States in return for a halt to Pyongyong's nuclear weapons program. A separate agreement also allowed work on two light water reactors.

Each year, 500,000 tons of fuel oil are shipped to North Korea. During the last fiscal year, the United States paid for about $86 million of that aid.

Last month, Pyongyang admitted to the United States that North Korea was continuing its effort to build nuclear weapons with enriched uranium.