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Roh Promises N. Korea Massive Aid if Nuclear Issue is Resolved - 2004-06-15

South Korea's president has promised massive aid to North Korea if the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program is peacefully ended. The offer comes as six nations prepare to meet next week for talks on the nuclear issue.

President Roh Moo-hyun told an international seminar in Seoul that South Korea will accelerate aid to North Korea if the nuclear issue is resolved.

Mr. Roh says that if the nuclear situation is resolved, cooperation between North and South Korea will improve. He also says Seoul would be prepared to implement a comprehensive and detailed plan on aid when that moment arrives.

A presidential spokesman later said that "massive aid" would include cooperation in all industries and that Seoul will help its impoverished neighbor forge economic ties with the international community.

The offer comes as the Koreas mark the fourth anniversary of their historic summit, in which they pledged to work toward eventual reunification.

A leader of the North Korean delegation attending Tuesday's conference later met with President Roh, and conveyed a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that Pyongyang and Seoul should continue to develop their relationship.

The issue of aiding the communist North is controversial. Some officials and political analysts in South Korea suspect that money sent to Pyongyang has been spent on its large army, instead of helping hungry citizens.

"The mechanism of aid from South to North is not giving aid directly from South to North. But rather we want to help South Korean firms entering North Korea to develop the country, like foreign direct investment," Yun Ho Chung is a policy analyst with Seoul's Korea Development Institute.

The South Korean offer came the same day that China confirmed it will host a third round of talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. The talks will begin between June 23 and 26.

Ms. Zhang, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, says China hopes that all sides negotiate in the spirit of mutual respect and equality, and hopes they will show cooperation and flexibility.

Diplomats from both Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia have met twice in Beijing in the past year to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear programs. The United States wants Pyongyang to verifiably dismantle all efforts to build nuclear weapons, while Pyongyang demands security guarantees and aid first.

North Korea's official news agency on Tuesday warned there would be no progress at next week's talks unless Washington changes its position.