North Korea reiterated its threat Saturday to restart its nuclear facilities suspected of atomic bomb development.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency accused the United States of failing to fulfill its obligations under a 1994 agreement in which Washington pledged to help the communist state acquire two light-water nuclear reactors to replace its plutonium-producing models.Washington also promised to provide 500,000-ton annual replacement fuel oil shipments until the first reactor comes on line by 2003.
But reactor construction and fuel deliveries were running months behind schedule because of difficulty in raising funds.
"If the agreement is left without any real meaning and the project is delayed, we cannot but reconsider the building of our own nuclear power industry," the agency said.
In the 1994 deal, North Korea froze operation and construction at five nuclear-related facilities.
Since last month, however, U.S. officials have said North Korea might be looking for an excuse to back out of the agreement. Pyongyang has recently done maintenance work on its closed nuclear plants.
Building two light-water reactors is expected to cost between $4 and $5 billion. But South Korea, the United States, Japan and other contributors have yet to agree on how to share the cost.
South Korea, a major financier, was hit by a severe financial crisis and wants to reduce its share.
Earlier this month, the Clinton administration said it has procured 210,000 of 500,000 tons of heavy oil promised to North Korea this year, but it had no money to buy the rest.
It asked Congress for new funds and wanted other nations to contribute some of the total $50 million annual cost.
On Wednesday, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said inspectors have yet to verify "the accuracy and completeness" of North Korea's initial declaration of nuclear facilities and amount of nuclear material it held.