A multinational project to build two tamperproof nuclear power plants for North Korea in exchange for U.N. inspections of the country's atomic sites was formally killed off Wednesday by the United States, Japan, South Korea and European Union.
A short statement from the executive board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) blamed Pyongyang's "continued and repeated failure" to cooperate with the international effort to induce North Korea to give up its self-proclaimed nuclear weapons program.
KEDO also demanded that North Korea compensate the agency for the multibillion-dollar cost of the project -- a dim prospect given North Korea's isolation and belligerency.
It was not clear if the timing of the KEDO announcement, impending for months, was meant to influence Iran to cooperate with a similar "reactors-for-inspections" plan, as the United States announced in a policy shift Wednesday that it would join Europe in direct talks with Tehran if it abolishes its uranium enrichment program.
The United States has no formal diplomatic representation in either North Korea or Iran. Proposals are usually communicated through the Swiss embassies. Back-channel talks with North Korea also take place in New York City, where the reclusive Stalinist state has a mission to the United Nations.
KEDO's executive board meeting Wednesday was the first since November, when the Bush administration finally succeeded in persuading South Korea, the main backer of the project then still holding out hope for continued construction, to join Japan and the European Union in abandoning the $4.6 billion (Ђ3.57 billion) (Ђ3.57 billion (Ђ4.59 billion) ) project.
The former executive director of KEDO, Charles Kartman, a career U.S. diplomat who stepped down from running KEDO last year as it wound down, commented on the shutdown of the reactor-building project:
"At some point, one hopes all these governments will take a thoughtful moment and figure out what lessons there are. If they can do that in time to make a difference for Iran, or even North Korea -- that one can only hope," he said, reports AP.