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US Offers North Korea Energy Aid, Security Guarantees - 2004-06-23

Senior U.S. administration officials say the United States has proposed addressing North Korea's energy needs and providing a security guarantee if it dismantles its nuclear weapons project. The announcement followed the first day of multiparty negotiations in Beijing.

The officials spoke to reporters on the condition that they not be named, saying Washington has presented a proposal that includes addressing North Korea's energy needs and providing a provisional security guarantee.

Washington's plan is meant to break a deadlock in a dispute in which the United States had demanded the unconditional dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The six-nation talks opened Wednesday with North Korea's chief delegate saying Pyongyang may be ready to stop developing its nuclear program if the United States also gives concessions. In televised remarks through a Chinese translator, the chief North Korean delegate, Kim Gye Gwan, saying his country is willing to move toward stopping its development of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kim said that if the United States ends what he termed its hostile policy, his country is ready to give up its nuclear weapons in a transparent way.

China, the host of the negotiations that also include Japan, South Korea, and Russia, called the U.S. proposal a sign that progress is being made in ending the nuclear dispute.

North Korea did not immediately respond to the U.S. proposal, which was one of three presented on the opening day of the talks. There were no details on the two other plans put forth by North Korea and South Korea. U.S. officials on Wednesday said their offer includes setting up a three-month period in which North Korea would have a chance to prepare for the comprehensive dismantling of its nuclear development programs.

Until this week, Washington has insisted on no less than the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs before any aid could be discussed. That position has brought frustration among other participants in the talks. Japan, South Korea, and Russia have in recent days offered the North significant aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze.

The third round of talks follows earlier meetings in August and February that yielded no concrete results. The current negotiations are scheduled to go through Saturday.