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Incoming S. Korean President Pledges Billions if North Quits Nuclear Weapons

  • Kurt Achin

The newly elected South Korean president says he will create a multi-billion dollar fund to help North Korea once he takes office. But, Pyongyang would only get that help if it gives up its nuclear weapons programs. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

The next president of South Korea offered North Korea a major new financial incentive Friday to end its nuclear weapons.

Lee Dong-kwan is a spokesman for former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak, who is scheduled to take office next month.

He said that as part of President-elect Lee's plan to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons, the next administration will establish an international cooperation fund of up to $40 billion.

Spokesman Lee says the funds would be raised with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to support the impoverished North's economic growth. He did not name specific projects, but experts say the fund would first be used to rebuild tattered North Korean infrastructure such as railroads, highways, and shipping facilities.

Lee and his Grand National Party are viewed as distinctly more conservative on North Korea than outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun. Mr. Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, implemented a policy of open-ended aid and investment transfers to the North while demanding very little from Pyongyang in return.

Mr. Roh has described North-South cooperation as a separate process from six-nation diplomatic efforts aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons. Lee Myung-bak, on the other hand, has pledged to make South Korean cooperation with the North contingent on Pyongyang's progress on the nuclear issue.

Lee's spokesman says the new president will also take a different approach on North Korean human rights abuses.

He said the incoming administration is highly critical of South Korea's inconsistent stance on North Korean human rights in the past. Lee Myung-bak, he says, will implement what experts call a "Helsinki process" of linking human rights and national security issues.

North Korea tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006. Though it has since made progress in shutting down some of its nuclear facilities, it failed to provide a promised nuclear declaration by the end of 2007.

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