U.S. mulls N. Korean reactor shutdown

April 18, 2005 at 8:38 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- The reported shutdown of a North Korean nuclear power plant to reprocess spent fuel rods for weapons has the Bush administration concerned and uncertain.

The worries are based on evidence obtained from satellite photos and reports from Selig Harrison, a specialist on North Korea at the Center for International Policy in Washington, the New York Times reported Monday. He said after visiting the country two weeks ago there were plans "to unload the reactor to create a situation" to force President Bush to negotiate on terms more favorable to North Korea.

The signs could mean the communist country is beginning to extract fuel rods from the aging five-megawatt Yongbyon nuclear complex, the first step in turning the rods into weapons-grade plutonium. But there could also be more innocent explanations, such as maintenance, or a diplomatic bluff.

"It is still too murky to tell exactly what the North Koreans are doing," a senior administration official told the New York Times.

North Korea is boycotting talks on nuclear disarmament until the United States agrees to a non-aggression treaty and aid concessions.

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