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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bloomberg.com: Top Worldwide

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South Korea Proposes Accord to Break Nuclear Deadlock (Update2)

July 27 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea proposed that immediate aid be pledged to North Korea as soon as the nation agrees to verifiable steps to end its nuclear program, seeking to break a deadlock at six-party talks.

South Korea outlined the strategy to end disagreements on the timing of commitments at the second day of negotiations in Beijing, said a South Korean official attending the talks, who briefed the media on condition of anonymity. The U.S., China, Japan and Russia are the other participants.

The talks are the first since June 2004 and come after North Korea in February said it had built nuclear weapons and was withdrawing from the six-party framework. North Korean negotiators yesterday told U.S. officials they are unhappy with the timing of benefits the country would receive for giving up the program, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

``We can see many delegates have serious proposals,'' said Pang Zhongying, professor of international relations at Nankai University in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. ``It's better than not talking but the chance of achieving a nuclear- free peninsula in this round is practically impossible.''

South Korea wants the meeting to yield a joint statement in which North Korea would pledge to end its nuclear program and the other participants would agree to normalize relations with North Korea and offer economic aid and security guarantees, the South Korean official said.

Joint Statement

Three previous rounds failed to yield such a statement.

North Korea doesn't want to have ``obligations'' ahead of those pledged by the five other parties, the Wall Street Journal quoted Christopher Hill, the chief negotiator for the U.S. at the talks as saying yesterday.

Russia's chief negotiator Alexander Alexeyev has already concluded future rounds of talks are necessary and that a significant breakthrough is impossible, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a member of the Russian delegation it didn't identify. He will outline ``initial conclusions'' from the morning's talks, Xinhua said.

An official at the Russian Embassy press office who didn't identify himself said Alexeyev will meet the press tomorrow afternoon. He declined to comment further.

Demanding Energy

The dispute arose in October 2002 when North Korea acknowledged to the U.S. it had broken a 1994 agreement and was continuing its nuclear development.

The U.S. proposed during talks in June 2004 to remove North Korea from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism and pledge not to attack the country if it halts its nuclear program. The U.S. also said it would help end North Korea's political and economic isolation.

South Korea said on July 12 it offered to build transmission lines and pylons to supply 2,000 megawatts of electricity to the North, on the condition the Stalinist nation agree to close down its nuclear weapons facilities. The proposal was in response to North Korea's demands during the third rounds of talks in June last year for the same amount of energy aid.

South Korea proposed that the possible joint statement to include its offer of electricity for North Korea the South Korean official said. South Korea also wants other countries to have a ``constructive'' attitude to normalizing relations and offering security guarantees, the official said.

North Korea, which relies on overseas aid to help feed its 23 million people, wants food aid as well as security guarantees, in return for disarming.

North Korea's chief delegate, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Kwan, said yesterday that the North is ``prepared make a political and strategic decision'' for a nuclear-free peninsula.

Hungry North Koreans are scavenging for ferns, acorns, grass and seaweed to eat as their government and international aid agencies run out of food, the Associated Press reported, citing Gerald Bourke, a Beijing-based spokesman for the World Food Program.

To contact the reporters for this story:
Allen T. Cheng in Beijing at Acheng13@bloomberg.net;
Heejin Koo in Seoul at hjkoo@bloomberg.net.

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