Delegates from six nations are mapping out the specifics of sending energy aid to North Korea as it ends its nuclear weapons programs. Negotiators are seeking the right timing and blend of energy assistance to ensure North Korea adheres to its promises. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from the site of the talks, Panmunjom, in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.
At the start of energy aid talks Monday, the head of the South Korean delegation, Lim Sung-nam, praised this year's progress in efforts to end North Korea's nuclear programs. But, he also acknowledged the work is far from over.
"The road before us could be bumpy, and might have more ups and downs than the route we have gone through so far, primarily because we will be discussing extremely technical issues," he said.
South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States have worked for four years to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange not just for energy, but also financial, security, and diplomatic rewards. Pyongyang tested its first nuclear weapon a year ago, in violation of several international agreements.
Earlier this year, North Korea received about 100-thousand tons of heavy fuel oil after halting operations at its main nuclear facility. South Korea says Pyongyang will begin living up to a second round of promises - declaring and disabling all of its nuclear facilities - in about two weeks.
Once that is done, under the six-nation accord, North Korea will receive the equivalent 900,000 tons of heavy oil. Delegates say much of the energy aid will probably be in the form of upgrades to North Korea's decrepit power generation system.
It is not clear whether Japan will provide any fuel assistance. Tokyo has refused to do so, saying North Korea must be more forthcoming about Japanese citizens Pyongyang's agents abducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
South Korea's Lim says Japan has not indicated any change in its position.
He says getting Japan to contribute energy aid to North Korea will depend on the progress of talks between those two countries.
If North Korea eliminates all its nuclear programs, it also can expect talks on normalizing diplomatic ties with the United States. Normal ties with Tokyo and Washington could result in new trade and assistance for the poverty-stricken North.
Another goal linked to the six-party process is a permanent peace arrangement between North and South Korea. The two sides never formally ended their war after fighting stopped in 1953, three years after the North invaded the South. It was in Panmunjom, where the energy talks are taking place, that the armistice still in place was signed.