U.S. Congress OKs Bill to Extend South Korea Nuclear Trade Pact

South Korea's APR-1000 nuclear reactor, Shin-Kori 1 and 2, near the southern port of Busan, as seen last February. The U.S. Congress has approved a two-year extension of Washington and Seoul's nuclear trade pact.
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Oswald
Jan. 29, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

The U.S. Con­gress is send­ing to the White House a bill to re­new for two years an ex­ist­ing U.S.-South Korea atom­ic trade deal that oth­er­wise would ex­pire in March.

The House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives on Tues­day un­an­im­ously ap­proved the le­gis­la­tion, and a sim­il­ar bill was ap­proved by the Sen­ate on Monday.

Pres­id­ent Obama is ex­pec­ted to sign the bill, which would al­low civil nuc­le­ar-en­ergy co­oper­a­tion between the United States and South Korea to con­tin­ue while the two coun­tries ne­go­ti­ate a re­place­ment ac­cord.

“Today’s im­port­ant le­gis­la­tion ex­tends the cur­rent U.S.-South Korea civil nuc­le­ar agree­ment set to ex­pire this year,” U.S. Rep­res­ent­at­ive Ed Royce (R-Cal­if.) said in a state­ment cel­eb­rat­ing the bill’s pas­sage. “Pas­sage of this le­gis­la­tion … sends a strong mes­sage that we are com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing this crit­ic­al re­la­tion­ship.”

Ne­go­ti­ations for a new atom­ic ac­cord have been bogged down over Seoul’s wish to be per­mit­ted to do­mest­ic­ally re­pro­cess spent nuc­le­ar fuel. Though the tech­no­logy can be used to pro­duce new re­act­or fuel, it also could be util­ized to pro­duce war­head-grade ma­ter­i­al. Wash­ing­ton is con­cerned that al­low­ing Seoul re­pro­cessing tech­no­logy would send a neg­at­ive non­pro­lif­er­a­tion sig­nal to the world and could ex­acer­bate ten­sions with North Korea.