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International Group Suspends Construction of New N. Korea Nuclear Plants - 2003-11-21

In New York Friday, the international monitoring group charged with dismantling and rebuilding two nuclear reactors in North Korea announced it is suspending its work for one year, or until diplomats can persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

The United States, the European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea set up the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, or KEDO, after North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in 1994.

KEDO is charged with replacing North Korea's current nuclear reactors with ones that are safer.

Amid growing concerns that North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, KEDO spokesman Roland Tricot announced the group will put its $4.6 billion Light Water Reactor Project on hold.

"KEDO, given that the conditions necessary for continuing the Light Water Reactor Project have not been met by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, has decided to suspend the Light Water Reactor Project for a period of one year, beginning December 1, 2003," he said.

The two light-water reactors under construction were considered safer than the three existing North Korean reactors, which produce plutonium that can be more easily adapted for use in weapons.

Some analysts believe North Korea has processed enough plutonium from spent fuel rods to build two or more nuclear bombs.

A State Department official said this week that KEDO has "no future." But officials in Seoul have expressed concern that a stoppage will not help resolve the region's nuclear crisis.

Mr. Tricot says the future of KEDO's operations must be decided on by a consensus of all members. Further talks are expected next month.