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South Korea Electricity for North if Pyongyang Ends Nuke Programs

South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young answers a reporter's question during a press conference after he finished a meeting of the National Security Council at the government house in Seoul
South Korea's chief policy-maker on North Korea is offering a solution to the North's drastic energy shortage, which Pyongyang originally used in part to justify its controversial nuclear research.

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young says South Korea will provide electricity to the North if it gives up its nuclear-weapons capabilities.

This is the first time Seoul has offered details of what it has referred to for weeks as "an important proposal" in the long-running attempt to persuade the North to abandon nuclear weapons. Mr. Chung briefed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on the electricity proposal a few weeks ago in Pyongyang.

North Korea agreed on Saturday to end its year-long boycott of multi-national talks aimed at ending its nuclear programs.

The talks, which also involve China, the United States, Russia, and Japan, are scheduled to resume July 25th.

Mr. Chung says if the Beijing talks produce "a good result," South Korea could begin to construct electrical transmission lines right away between the North and South.

South Korea's proposal calls for Seoul's partners in the six-party talks to ship free fuel oil to North Korea in return for a freeze in its nuclear-weapons development. Mr. Chung says those shipments could be reduced or ended within several years. Mr. Chung said South Korea's proposed power grid into the North could be ready by 2008.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Seoul to discuss strategy for the renewed talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon.

Further strategy talks among South Korea, the United States, and Japan are scheduled in Seoul later this week.

Mr. Chung emphasized South Korea would bear most of the costs of the energy proposal, but said Seoul's partners in the six-party talks should follow its lead. Mr. Chung said Japan, China, Russia, and the United States should join South Korea in aggressively seeking a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear standoff.

Meanwhile, North-South economic cooperation talks wrapped up in Seoul. The two countries agreed on a series of joint projects, including railroad construction and new maritime access for North Korean ships. South Korea also agreed to provide half a million tons of rice to the impoverished North.