SEOUL — The United States wants the next round of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons to produce “specific ideas” about elements of an eventual deal, a senior State Department official said yesterday.
The official, who is intimately involved with North Korean issues, also suggested that the North might receive more energy assistance than the 2,000 megawatts of electricity South Korea offered earlier this week.
“We have to address the [North’s] energy needs in the context of a settlement; that’s why the South Korean proposal is so important,” the official, who is familiar with Korean issues, told the Washington Times.
Asked whether the North might receive additional energy incentives for dismantling its nuclear programs, he said, “We have to see how the North Koreans react to [South Korea’s offer], if in their view, it meets their needs.”
The official remained vague when asked whether the United States or its allies might send the North heavy fuel oil, as they did from the mid-1990s until late 2002.
“At this point, it’s too much granularity to get into the issue of: Is there a heavy oil component and who is going to handle that?” he said.
The monthly shipments ended after the Bush administration said in October 2002 that North Korea had cheated on a 1994 deal known as the Agreed Framework by secretly developing a program to enrich uranium.
South Korea said on Tuesday that it would ship electricity directly to the North from its power grid, replacing energy that would have come from two light-water atomic reactors promised under the Agreed Framework.
The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an international consortium established by South Korea, Japan, the United States and the European Union, was to have built the reactors. In exchange for that and the fuel oil, Pyongyang had frozen its nuclear-energy program, which produced plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons.
The official yesterday reiterated the administration’s position that “we don’t see a future for KEDO.”
He also said that the next round of six-party talks, scheduled to open in Beijing during the week of July 25, would “count” in a way that three previous rounds had not.
“Time is on no one’s side,” he said. “We need to show that the six-party process has legs.
“If we are able to come up with some concrete ideas and get everyone on the same sheet of music, then we can show that we can agree on the elements of what needs to be put together for an eventual agreement,” he said.
The official accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her trip to Asia, which ended Wednesday, but remained in Seoul for further meetings.
He said there had been “very few polemics” at a Saturday night dinner in Beijing with the North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs, where the North first agreed to end a yearlong boycott of the six-party talks.