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North Korea Demands Oil To Suspend Nuclear Reactor Operations

The North Koreans wish to swap oil for uranium.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 04, 2007
North Korea has demanded more than 500,000 tons of oil a year in return for suspending a a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor, a Japanese daily reported Sunday. High-ranking North Korean officials, including nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan, met two US nuclear experts -- former State Department official Joel Witt and Institute for Science and International Security president David Albright -- last week, the influential Asahi Shimbun daily said.

The North Koreans told the US experts, who visited Pyongyang for five days from January 30, that the country would halt the plutonium-producing Yongbyon nuclear reactor if they received more than 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year or an equivalent volume of energy assistance, the Asahi said.

The two Americans met with an Asahi Shimbun reporter at Beijing airport after the visit, the report said.

US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill told Japan's public broadcaster NHK in Seoul: "I think we can talk about the energy assistance, but what needs to be discussed really and what needs to be resolved is to get moving on the implementation of denuclearisation."

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, citing unnamed government sources, that Japan had decided to refuse food and energy aid to North Korea without a guarantee that the abduction issue would be resolved, even if major progress was made at the six-party nuclear talks on other issues.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that Pyongyang agents had abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies. It returned five of them to Japan along with their families and said the other eight had died. But Japan believes they are still alive and suspects more Japanese nationals were kidnapped and are being kept under wraps because they know too many secrets.

The multilateral disarmament talks are set to resume on February 8 in Beijing.

Under a 1994 energy agreement, Washington promised to provide 500,000 tons of oil a year until two nuclear power plants were completed in North Korea, in a deal aimed at freezing the North's nuclear weapons activity.

But the project fell apart after the United States in October 2002 said Pyongyang had admitted running a secret uranium enrichment programme in violation of the deal.

earlier related report
NKorea depending more on China trade since nuclear test: official
Seoul (AFP) Feb 2 - North Korea has become increasingly dependent on trade with China after other nations restricted dealings following its nuclear test, a South Korean government official said Friday. The official confirmed a report by Yonhap news agency that two-way trade between China and the North had risen 21.6 percent year-on-year over the past few months.

In the three months since the October test, "North Korea's dependence on China in terms of trade increased sharply," the agency quoted an unidentified official as saying.

Another source said that from October to November 2006, the trade volume between North Korea and Japan declined 75 percent year-on-year to 7.9 million dollars.

Japan reacted more strongly than any other nation to the North's missile launches in July and subsequent nuclear test. In addition to weapons-related sanctions ordered by the United Nations, it banned North Korean goods and citizens from entering the country and barred its ships from Japanese ports.

Trade between North Korea and China rose 7.5 percent year-on-year for the whole of 2006 to 1.69 billion dollars, while trade between North Korea and Japan decreased 34 percent to 119 million dollars in the first 11 months of last year, the source said. China is the main economic lifeline for impoverished North Korea, accounting for 40 percent of its trade as of early last year. It supported the UN sanctions against its neighbour but has not imposed any bilateral restrictions.

The source also highlighted the impact which separate US financial curbs are having on the North.

"North Korea can make financial dealings only via Russia and a few other countries because it has a lot of trouble in doing financial transactions and wooing investments since the United States imposed financial sanctions on the North in September 2005," he said. The US blacklisted Macau's Banco Delta Asia that month, effectively freezing North Korean accounts totalling 24 million dollars there. It said it suspected the funds were the proceeds of money-laundering and counterfeiting.

The freeze has become linked to multinational efforts to negotiate an end to the North's nuclear programme. Talks on the banking curbs in Beijing this week failed to resolve the dispute.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Defends Military Build-Up Against An Aggressive Iran
London (AFP) Feb 02, 2007
The United States' ambassador to NATO defended Friday a US military build-up in the Gulf in response to what she said was an increasingly "aggressive" stance by Iran. Victoria Nuland, in an interview with Sky News television, vowed to defend US interests in the region, where she said many people were "very scared" of the Islamic republic's intentions. US President George W. Bush recently ordered a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf, raising the US naval presence in the region to its highest level since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.







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