U.S. House panel okays Korea nuclear accord bill

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, July 24 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. House committee passed a bill Wednesday to extend the current South Korea-U.S. civilian nuclear energy accord until 2016, a move intended to give the two governments more time to negotiate a revised agreement.

"This extension would allow the negotiators time to focus on substantive matters of the agreement instead of focusing on the clock," Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a press release. He submitted the bill in June.

It requires approval from the floor of the House and the Senate.

After two years of negotiations, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to roll over the existing agreement, set to expire in March.

The two sides failed to narrow differences on Seoul's pursuit of uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing to meet its growing energy needs and enhanced status as a nuclear plant exporter.

Royce stressed the significance of continued close cooperation in the nuclear energy sector.

"The U.S.-Korea civilian nuclear energy partnership has been of great economic importance to both nations for several decades," he said. "As we continue to strengthen our alliance with our long-time ally, South Korea, we must ensure that our cooperation in the area or civilian nuclear energy continues to grow stronger as well.”

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