NATIONAL

N.Korea offers temporary halt of nuclear program in exchange for more food aid: reports

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 29, 2012 - 21:38
  • Updated : Feb 29, 2012 - 23:30

North Korea has offered a temporary way to halt its uranium enrichment program in exchange for more food in addition to the previously proposed nutritional assistance, news reports said Wednesday.

The news reports came hours before the U.S. Department of State announced the results of the third round of talks between Washington’s top envy Glyn Davies and North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing, which went for two days on Thursday and Friday.

The U.S. demanded Pyongyang suspend the operations of its nuclear facilities, and North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said it would be “technically difficult” to do so, Japan’s daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported Wednesday, quoting an unnamed source.

The report said the U.S. asserted that the status of the nuclear facilities should be checked under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency and should eventually come to a halt.

In response, the North said it is difficult to stop the program due to safety reasons and the high costs of resumption of the facilities, suggesting “another separate method,” the report said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said North Korea suggested that it operates the UEP under “no-load conditions,” meaning that it still runs the nuclear facilities, but without fuels.

In exchange, Pyongyang wanted extra corn, in addition to the tentatively agreed-upon 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance, the news report said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Adm. Robert Willard, the U.S. top military officer in the Asia-Pacific, said the North should halt its nuclear program and ballistic missile tests to receive food aid from the U.S.

He also said that U.S. conditions for providing food aid could include North Korea allowing IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.

The U.S.-North talks were the first since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December, and deemed as a gauge of new leader Kim Jong-un’s policy directions.

Just before the death of the elder Kim, the U.S. and North Korea were on the verge of reaching an agreement on the U.S. nutritional assistance for North Korean women, children and seniors in exchange for freezing the uranium enrichment.

The U.S.-North talks could be part of indictors whether the stalled six-party nuclear talks could resume. The multilateral talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled since 2008.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)