EU reticent over funding Pyongyang nuclear reactors

European Union member states have voiced reservations over continuing to fund an international consortium to help build light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea, EU’s new ambassador to Japan Bernhard Zepter said Wednesday.

Zepter, a German career diplomat who assumed the position Oct. 9, said North Korea’s admission that it has been developing nuclear weapons in violation of a 1994 international accord came as “a heavy blow.”

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was set up to provide North Korea with two light-water reactors in exchange for Pyongyang’s word that it would not build a nuclear arsenal. The main financial contributors to the organization are the United States, Japan, South Korea and the EU.

“It will be difficult to convince our member states and the parliament to agree to an agreement which seemed not to have produced the result which we had intended,” he told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

However, the EU’s position has not been decided, Zepter said, adding it will closely consult with the other KEDO partners at a KEDO meeting in November.

Zepter also took the opportunity to knock Japan’s press club system, which restricts the activities of journalists not credentialed by the system, including those from foreign organizations. Under a deregulation proposal presented to the Japanese government on Tuesday, the EU singled out the press club system as a barrier to trade and investment.

“A lot of delegations and companies come and see what happens in Japan,” Zepter said. “But they won’t come, won’t invest and won’t bring the money if they don’t know what happens in the country.”

“We have to realize more and more foreign journalists are leaving this country because they say the working conditions are not appropriate. Please give our journalists the opportunity to act in a non-discriminatory way and to have access to information, as Japanese journalists have.”

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