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EU Concerned About N. Korea's Nuclear Weapons - 2002-10-17


The European Union says it is very concerned over reports that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons. The EU is warning the reclusive country that it will face serious consequences if it is found to be violating international agreements.

Reacting to a U.S. statement that North Korea has acknowledged working on nuclear weapons, despite a 1994 agreement not to do so, the European Union is threatening to cut off funding for a nuclear energy project in North Korea.

The European Union contributes $20-million a year to an international consortium charged with building those reactors. It has given $75-million to the project.

South Korea provides the bulk of the funding for the $5 billion project in which the United States and Japan also participate.

The agreement to build the reactors was struck in 1994, after North Korea pledged to freeze its nuclear weapons program.

The United States says North Korea admitted it is still developing nuclear weapons in breach of the agreement.

The disclosure is an embarrassment for the European Union, which has worked hard to build relations with the hermit communist state during the past year and a half. Of the 15 EU member countries, only France and Ireland have not established embassies in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

France says it is very worried about North Korea's purported admission that it is building a nuclear arsenal. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau says his country has always had doubts about North Korea's attitude toward nuclear non-proliferation.

In Brussels, EU officials huddled with visiting North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Su Hon and asked him for clarification on the U.S. disclosure. Mr. Choi said he would study the matter.

The European Union says the future of the 1994 agreement and the consortium building the reactors has been called into question by the revelations.

EU spokesman Gunnar Wiegand says the European Union must allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country as soon as possible, so that they can assess the U.S. allegations.