The talks to reach a deal to allow South Korea to reprocess nuclear fuel for their domestic energy industry has once again been put off:
SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) — South Korea said Wednesday that it has failed to win U.S. permission to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel in negotiations aimed at renewing a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.
Instead, the allies agreed to extend the current agreement by two more years until March 2016, said a senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry who is privy to the highly sensitive talks with the U.S., following the latest round of negotiations in Washington last week.
“The two sides agreed to extend the current nuclear cooperation agreement by two years to avoid a lapse in the agreement, and the next round of the talks will be held in June,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Extending the pact will “give Korea and the U.S. more time for close consultations and lay the ground for the two sides to achieve good results in smoothly revising the agreement,” the official said.
Since October 2010, South Korea and the U.S. have negotiated to revise the 1974 agreement under which South Korea has been banned from reprocessing its spent nuclear fuel or enriching uranium for its commercial nuclear power plants, but Washington has been reluctant to do so apparently out of proliferation concerns.
This is one of the most sensitive issues for South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama as Seoul officials want to gain a “peaceful nuclear sovereignty” for the South Korean nuclear energy industry. [Yonhap]
You can read the rest at the link, but basically the deal is being held up because the US thinks that allowing South Korea to enrich uranium would set a bad example when dealing with North Korea. I just find it amazing that negotiators in Washington actually think that stopping South Korea from enriching uranium will have any affect on the decision cycle of the Kim regime to continue their uranium enrichment activities. The North Koreans are committed to developing their nuclear program and no matter what the South does it is not going to stop them from enriching uranium. There is also concerns that some how allowing the South Koreans to enrich uranium could lead to proliferation of nuclear material.
The Marmot’s Hole has some good background information on this issue, but the fact that Japan was allowed to reprocess nuclear fuel back in the 1980′s and South Korea is not is not sitting well with the ROK government.