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Oil runs dry for North Korea

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SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) -- An oil tanker arrived in North Korea Tuesday carrying the last shipment of U.S.-funded fuel oil to the communist state unless it halts a banned nuclear weapons programme, South Korea said.

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Reports from North Korea that the reclusive nation has developed nuclear weapons are being met with confusion and skepticism. CNN's Sohn Jie-ae reports.
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CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver reports on the concern over food shortages in North Korea and the impact of politics on donations.
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Special Report: The two Koreas 

Do you believe North Korea really does have a working nuclear weapon?

1994 agreement
North Korea promised to give up its nuclear weapons program and allow inspections to verify that it did not have the material such weapons would require. The country has yet to allow the inspections.
N. Korea nuclear facts
  • North Korea launched a medium-range "test" missile over Japan in 1998.
  • The 1994 Agreed Framework was signed by North Korea with the Clinton administration.
  • In return, an international consortium is building new nuclear reactors in North Korea.
  • Washington and its allies decided last week to stop vital fuel oil aid to penalise Pyongyang for breaking a series of non-proliferation pledges. The cuts will hit North Korea just ahead of winter, which brings sub-freezing temperatures.

    The United States, Japan, South Korea and the European Union agreed to suspend the fuel oil shipments to North Korea from December. But they allowed delivery of the 42,500-tonne November batch, which was already on the high seas.

    North Korea has not yet responded to the decision to cut the fuel shipments -- a move Pyongyang envoys have said would be viewed as a hostile act.

    Under a 1994 agreement, the North promised to freeze its nuclear weapons programme in return for fuel oil, paid for by Washington, and two light water reactors that cannot easily be converted to produce atomic weapons material.

    The world's last Cold War flashpoint went from reconciliation to crisis prevention last month, when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted pursuing a nuclear arms development programme, violating the 1994 accord, known as the Agreed Framework.

    U.S. President George W. Bush issued a statement last week demanding North Korea dismantle its nuclear programme while reiterating the United States had no intention of invading the isolated and impoverished country.

    'Nuclear entitlement'

    The North has asserted that it is entitled to have nuclear weapons in the face of a U.S. government that has branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq and talked of preemptive military strikes against hostile states.

    North Korea has demanded that the United States sign a non-aggression treaty and guarantee the impoverished country's sovereignty in order to resolve the nuclear row.

    Separately, U.S. and South Korean military authorities announced an agreement on Tuesday to allow one-time waivers of 1953 Korean War armistice procedures in a bid to allow minesweeping verification necessary for the two Koreas to proceed with railroad and highway construction across their frontier.

    As minesweeping work in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the rival Koreas was near completion, North Korea had balked at dealing with the U.S.-led United Nations Command, as stipulated in the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

    The communist North's official media have issued daily attacks accusing the United States of obstructing joint work relinking railway and road connections severed since the Korean War. The Koreas are aiming to finish the railway by year's end.

    "The United States has supported every phase of the process, from transportation to minesweeping," said Major General James Soligan, deputy chief of staff of the U.N. Command.

    Soligan said it was North Korea that had failed to follow rules it had agreed to earlier, although the row had not halted minesweeping work across the DMZ in corridors on each side of the Korean peninisula designated as routes for railways and roads.

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