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N. Korea seeks initial deal with U.S.

North Korea said Tuesday it will freeze its nuclear weapons program if Washington takes the communist country off its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations and provides fuel aid.
/ Source: The Associated Press

North Korea said Tuesday it will freeze its nuclear weapons program if Washington takes the communist country off its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations and provides fuel aid.

If this demand is met by the United States, North Korea also said it will join a second round of six-nation talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea would “freeze” its nuclear activities in exchange for “measures such as the U.S. delisting the DPRK as a ’terrorism sponsor,’ lift of the political, economic and military sanctions and blockade and energy aid including the supply of heavy fuel oil and electricity by the U.S. and neighboring countries,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by its official news agency, KCNA.

DPRK stand for Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

“This would lay a foundation for furthering the six-way talks,” the spokesman said. “What is clear is that in no case the DPRK would freeze its nuclear activities unless it is rewarded.”

A South Korean Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the offer.

During a first round of talks between the United States, 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 Tuesday that sides at least reach agreement to the first set of actions.

Under its initial four-stage 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 United States wanted the North to move first.

Last week, the United States, 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.

U.S. seeks coordinated steps
The U.S.-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 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it quit earlier this year.

The North Korean spokesman said Tuesday that the U.S.-backed plan was “greatly disappointing” and said its aim was to “completely eliminate our nuclear deterrent force by giving just a piece of paper called ’written security assurances”’ that cannot be trusted.

If the United States could not accept simultaneous action on all four of its proposed steps, then North Korea urges Washington to “agree upon the first-phase action by making ’words for words’ commitment at the next round of the six-way talks.”

“The resumption of the six-way talks in the future entirely depends on whether an agreement will be reached on the DPRK-proposed first-phase step or not,” the spokesman said.

The United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas have been trying for weeks to jump-start a second round of talks on easing tensions. The first round of talks in Beijing ended without much progress.

Meanwhile, a nine-member European Union delegation arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to try to salvage the talks, according to another KCNA report monitored by Yonhap.

Impoverished North Korea has often tried used the nuclear confrontation with the United States and its allies as a means to win badly needed economic aid.

North Korea’s energy woes deepened when the United and its allies cut off 147 million gallons of annual free oil shipments late last year after U.S. officials accused it of running a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Angered by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the U.S. allies also suspended construction of two new nuclear power plants in North Korea early this month.

The U.S. State Department has been listing North Korea as a sponsor of terrorism since 1988 because of its alleged involvement in the bombing of a South Korean airliner in the skies near Myanmar in 1987. All 115 people aboard the Korean Air flight died.