North Korea said yesterday that it will freeze its nuclear weapons program if Washington takes the country off its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations and provides fuel aid, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
If this demand is met by the US, North Korea said it will join a second round of six-nation talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.
"In return for the freezing of our nuclear activities, the United States must remove our country's name from the list of terrorism sponsoring countries; lift its political, economic, military sanctions and blockade; and give us heavy oil, electricity and other energy assistance from the United States and neighboring countries," North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the country's official news agency, KCNA, monitored by Yonhap.
"If this takes place, a foundation to continue six-nation talks will be created," the spokesman said. "We make it clear that we will never freeze our nuclear program for nothing."
During a first round of talks between the US, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas, held in August in Beijing, North Korea recommended a package deal in which each side take four steps. It seemed to be recommending yesterday that sides at least reach agreement to the first set of actions.
Under its initial proposal, North Korea would declare its willingness to give up nuclear development, allow nuclear inspections, give up missiles exports and finally dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities. In return, it demanded economic and humanitarian aid, security assurances, diplomatic ties and new power plants.
The North had wanted Washington to issue the security assurances simultaneously with a Northern renunciation of its nuclear weapons program, while the US wanted the North to move first.
Last week, the US, Japan and South Korea worked out their own statement on how to end the nuclear crisis, and has asked China to deliver it to North Korea.
The US-backed proposal calls for unidentified "coordinated steps" to dismantle Pyongyang's weapons program.
But notably missing from the reported proposal are details of economic aid for North Korea and a clear demand that North Korea rejoin the nuclear con-proliferation treaty, which it quit earlier this year.
South Korean officials did not immediately react to North Korea's counterproposal.