- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Bush administration yesterday offered North Korea “provisional and temporary” rewards in exchange only for Pyongyang’s commitment to dismantling its nuclear-weapons program.

The White House, which had previously insisted that nothing less than concrete actions would trigger benefits for the North, said the communist state would receive “non-nuclear energy assistance,” including oil, as well as food and “some assurances on the security side.”

The proposal came in a detailed plan to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat. U.S. officials made the offer at six-party talks in Beijing that include the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia.

“What we will be presenting is a practical series of steps to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said the process would begin “with the North Korean commitment,” followed by “a short preparatory period for dismantlement and removal.”

“Parties would agree to a detailed implementation plan that would require the supervised disabling, dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear-related facilities and materials, the removal of all nuclear weapons and weapons components, centrifuge and other parts, fissile material and fuel rods and long-term monitoring programs” he said.

“At the same time, parties would be willing to take steps to ease the political and economic isolation of North Korea. Steps would be provisional or temporary in nature, and only yield lasting benefits to the North Koreans after the dismantlement has been completed,” Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Boucher said heavy fuel oil and other economic assistance could come from both the United States and other countries at the six-party talks.

The Bush administration, which branded North Korea as part of an “axis of evil,” had insisted that it would not be blackmailed into paying Pyongyang out of its nuclear programs and that it would not reward bad behavior.

Mr. Boucher made a distinction between the new offer and a 1994 deal with the North, known as the Agreed Framework. Under that accord, North Korea was supposed to freeze its program, but Washington accuses it of cheating.

“This is not the Agreed Framework,” he said. “This is achieving the goal of denuclearization on a practical time frame and in a way that does reverse the problems that have occurred over the past several years.”

There was no response from North Korea yesterday, and diplomats said it could take Pyongyang some time to react.

“The U.S. proposal is very complicated, and North Korea is going to need time to analyze it,” South Korean negotiator Lee Soo-hyuck told reporters in Beijing.

North Korea’s chief negotiator, Kim Gye-gwan, stuck to a familiar refrain, saying Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear-weapons program if the United States dropped its “hostile policy” toward the North.

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