Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 4 News List

N Korea to get an aid, security offer

UPCOMING TALKS The US, Japan and South Korea will be making a joint offer of energy aid and security guarantees in exchange for North Korea scrapping its nuclear program

AP AND AFP , TOKYO AND SEOUL

The streets of Pyongyang are devoid of advertisements but filled with government propanda posters. The one on the right shows two US soldiers being stabbed by a bayonet.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

The US, Japan and South Korea will for the first time make a joint offer of security guarantees, normalized relations and energy aid to North Korea at upcoming six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, a report said yesterday.

The countries will offer to provide North Korea with written security guarantees and a direct supply of electricity from South Korea in exchange for a commitment from the North to end its nuclear weapons program, the leading business newspaper Nihon Keizai reported.

It will be the first such joint offering from the three allies as they try to coax North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons program, it said.

North Korea has told the US it is ready to receive visits by US President George W. Bush or US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to normalize relations, a news report said yesterday.

The message was conveyed through contacts in New York from late last month to early this month by the two countries' negotiators for the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons, Kyodo News agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

If North Korea also addresses concerns about its missile development and human rights, Japan and the US would take further steps toward normalizing diplomatic relations with it, the report said. Neither country currently has diplomatic ties with the North.

The joint proposal would also avoid demands for a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons," language that has long been a key condition in the negotiations, the newspaper said.

The plan was crafted by officials from South Korea, Japan and the US during a meeting Thursday in Beijing, it said.

The six-nation talks, also involving North Korea, China and Russia, are to begin in the Chinese capital on Tuesday after a 13-month hiatus. China has hosted three previous rounds of inconclusive talks on North Korea's nuclear program since 2003.

In February, the North claimed it had nuclear weapons and has since taken steps that would allow it to produce more weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea's delegation to the talks, led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, arrived in Beijing on Friday. The remaining delegates were expected to arrive over the weekend.

However, North Korea said yesterday it "feels no need" to sit down directly with Japan at revived six-country nuclear disarmament talks because Tokyo is insisting on discussing the North's past abduction of Japanese citizens.

North Korea's comments came as South Korea's top negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, left for Beijing to attend the talks, set to open Tuesday.

North Korea "feels no need to sit face-to-face with Japan, a black-hearted filibuster against the talks," official North Korean newspaper Minju Joson said in an editorial, criticizing Tokyo's intention to raise the abduction issue as a plan "to meet its own interests."

It was not clear from the editorial, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, whether the North was refusing to attend the nuclear talks if they include Japan -- or saying it does not want to meet with Japanese officials on the sidelines of the talks, as Tokyo has desired.

In Tokyo on Thursday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokesman, Yu Kameoka, said, "It may be Japan has been saying things North Korea is not so happy to hear. But we will bring up the kidnapping issue."

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