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"Light Water Reactors," an Obstacle to Disablement of Nuke

Park Hyun Min  |  2007-07-23 19:49
On the 21st, North Koreas Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said that the issue of providing light water reactors would need to be discussed once the nuclear facilities at Yongbyun had been dismantled.

Following his arrival in Pyongyang after the six party talks, Minister Kim revealed in an interview with Xinhua News Agency, The proposal to discuss the light water reactor issue is in accordance to the September 19 Joint Statement and process of dismantling nuclear facilities.

Prior to his departure for Pyongyang, Minister Kim made a comment at Shoudou International Airport in Beijing regarding the disablement of North Koreas nukes, In order to disable the nuclear facilities once and for all, light water reactors must come first then the process of ceasing operations and disablement.

Considering the comments made by Minister Kim, following the disablement processes of the February 13 Agreement, it seems that discussions to provide light water reactors would be need to be made and completed prior to the disablement of Yongbyun nuclear facility. In other words, the nuclear facilities will not be disabled unless the light water reactors are provided first. However, it is unclear as to when the light water reactors will be placed on the table of negotiations.

In the case North Korea insists that light water reactors are provided prior to denuclearization, advancements to negotiations regarding North Koreas nukes will be impossible. A large number of experts argue that North Koreas refusal to make a strategic conclusion regarding its nuclear disablement is a tactic to further delay the six party talks.

Although Minister Kim revealed North Koreas stance regarding the light water reactor, but, it is uncertain when North Korea wants to discuss that issue.

Minister Kim said, The important factor in solving this issue is not fuel but changing (U.S.) policy and emphasized, We are not a parasite which eats fuel.

The September 19 Joint Statement stated that the other parties agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision of light water reactor to the DPRK. Hence, many analysts have argued there was a high possibility that the issue of light water reactors would act as an obstacle to the process of disablement and February 13 Agreement.

However, U.S. position regarding this issue is clear. On the 12th, Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill revealed that he had made it clear on his visit to North Korea that the issue of providing light water reactors would only be possible after the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula was made and once North Korea had rejoined the Non-proliferation Treaty.

Experts also foresee that the provision of light water reactors will only be possible after North Korea rejoins the NPT and the IAEA accepts the security measures of the Security Measures Agreement.

At North Koreas first nuclear threat, the U.S. promised to provide 1 million kW of light water reactors until 2003 in accordance with the Geneva Agreement in 1994 while North Korea promised to freeze its Yongbyun nuclear facility and rejoin the NPT. However, following North Koreas second nuclear threat in October 2002, operations were suspended.

As a result, the provision of light water reactors has made the U.S. a manipulation of North Koreas ploy, wasting time and money. With these experiences, the Bush Administration must take the position that light water reactors will be discussed only after the rejoining of NPT and denuclearization.

Seo Jae Jin, a researcher for the North Korea Human Rights Centre of Korea Institute for National Unification
once revealed in a paper, The overall issue of energy can be resolved if North Korea disables its nukes. However, if North Korea does not disable, they have no way to receive light water reactor assistance.

Then, he prospected, The root of North Koreas nuclear issue is not whether North Korea will disable its nukes or not. Rather it will be turned into an issue as to when and how the light water reactors will be provided.
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