North Korea offered energy aid concession
* Japan expresses support and understanding for aid bargain
* China claims consensus yet to be reached
BEIJING: North Korea was Thursday offered energy aid in return for freezing and dismantling its nuclear weapons programmes as tentative steps were taken to bring the Stalinist state in from the cold.
The first step in the process of making North Korea a non-nuclear nation was proposed by China, Russia and South Korea on the second day of six-country talks aimed at ending a 16-month impasse over Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.
“Russia and China, together with us, agree to join the energy aid,” said South Korea’s chief negotiator Lee Soo-Hyuck. “The United States and Japan expressed their understanding and support for this.
“The energy aid requires a presumption that North Korea freezes its nuclear activity as a beginning step to dismantle all of its nuclear programmes completely, irreversibly and verifiably.”
Lee, who characterised Thursday’s talks as “sincere”, did not elaborate on what the energy aid would be.
But it would most likely be a resumption of fuel shipments cut off by the United States, Japan, South Korea and the European Union in late 2002 after US envoy James Kelly said North Korea had admitted having an uranium enrichment programme and was trying to build nuclear weapons.
Lee suggested that North Korea freeze all its nuclear activities for a certain period while the participants at the Beijing talks work on an agreement to dismantle the nuclear programme.
“Our goal is to dismantle the nuclear programmes, not just to freeze them,” he said, adding that North Korea has yet to respond to the offer.
“North Korea has not made any direct comment during formal talks,” he said.
Elsewhere during the 6-way talks, host nation China said that no consensus had been reached.
However, it expressed optimism that all sides would reach an agreement on how to move the “long and drawn-out” process forward. —AFP