The US government is preparing to offer US$2 million in fresh aid to North Korea if it takes long-delayed initial steps to stop its nuclear activities, a Japanese newspaper reported yesterday.
The emergency aid would come in addition to 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil South Korea has promised to release once the North closes its Yongbyon reactor, the source of raw material for bomb-making plutonium, the Mainichi Shimbun said in its evening edition.
Washington had wanted to participate in the fuel aid but the South offered to give the oil on its own, the newspaper said in a dispatch from Washington, quoting unnamed US sources. The US then decided to offer its own aid, which would be used for humanitarian purposes and may include power generators for hospitals, the paper said.
The aid is meant "to demonstrate the US engagement in the February agreement," the Mainichi quoted one source as saying.
The reactor's closure is the first step in the deal reached in February involving the two Koreas, the US, Russia, China and Japan.
Under a second phase, the North would disable all its nuclear programs in return for 950,000 tonnes of oil or equivalent aid and diplomatic benefits including normalized ties with Washington.
The North had refused to implement the February pact until it received money frozen at a Macau bank. The US unfroze the funds in March but had problems finding a bank to handle the cash. The cash transfer finally began last Thursday.
In other news, the North test-fired a short-range missile into waters off its east coast shortly after 3pm yesterday, the South's Yonhap news agency and Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.
"North Korea launched an unknown type of short-range missile into the East Sea [Sea of Japan]," it quoted an intelligence source as saying. "It seems to be part of its routine exercises."
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