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North Bids to Talk About Electricity

June 18,2001
North Korea proposed on Monday that providing it with electricity should top the agenda in the resumed talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

"We are of the view that the issue of compensating for the loss of electricity caused by the delay in providing the LWR reactors ... should be adopted as a primary item to be taken up at the negotiations," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, as reported by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Two 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactors are to be built for North Korea by 2003 as part of the tradeoff laid out in the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework, under which North Korea froze its own nuclear program. But the construction is far behind schedule - hence the ministry's reference to "compensating" it.

The statement was North Korea's first official response since the June 12 meeting in New York between Jack Pritchard, U.S. special envoy for North Korean affairs, and Ri Hyong-chol, North Korean ambassador to the United Nations. In that meeting, which the Americans described as "a productive beginning," the United States proposed that the agenda include North Korea's nuclear weapons program, missile exports and development, and conventional forces.

On the last issue, Pyongyang was unaccommodating. "The DPRK's conventional armed forces can never be a subject of discussion before the U.S. forces are pulled out of South Korea at least, as they are means for self-defense to cope with the grave threat posed by the U.S. and its allied forces," it said. "We cannot construe this otherwise than an attempt of the U.S. to disarm the DPRK through negotiations."

North Korea watchers took the statement as a beginning of war of nerves between Pyongyang and Washington. "The announcement reflects Pyong-yang's resolve that it will not allow Washington to lead the resumed dialogue," a Seoul government official said.

North Korea has long hinted that it would demand other economic compensation besides that provided in the 1994 agreement, which also included deliveries of heavy fuel oil. It also would like to join international institutions such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund that extend economic development packages to member countries. Im-provement in relations with the United States would clear the hurdles to those organizations. Washington classifies North Korea as one of seven "rogue states" that it tries to keep from enjoying the benefits of international aid.

Professor Kang Sung-yoon of North Korean Studies at Dongkuk University forecast rough sailing for bilateral talks between North Korea and United States.

"And as prospects for inter-Korean talks hinge directly on the prospects of talks between North Korea and United States, it has become hard to say that stalled dialogue between South and North Korea will reopen soon," Mr. Kang said.

by Lee Young-jong




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