PANMUNJOM, Korea – North Korea said Monday it is sincerely living up to its nuclear disarmament pledges and expressed hope that the United States and other regional powers will follow through with promised aid, a South Korean official said.
Negotiators from the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan began two days of meetings in the Korean border village of Panmunjom to map out details of a disarmament-for-aid deal.
"The North's basic position was that it was to begin disarmament procedures from Nov. 1 and that it has been sincerely responding to second-stage denuclearization measures such as the disablement and declaration" of its nuclear facilities, said Lim Sung-nam, the chief South Korean delegate at the meeting.
"The North's side generally expressed hopes the five other parties should also provide it with promised economic and energy aid at an appropriate time," he said after the morning session concluded.
Under an agreement reached by the six nations in February, North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil and political concessions. In nuclear talks that ended on Oct. 3, North Korea said it would disable its main nuclear facilities and declare all its atomic programs by year's end.
This week's working-level talks are focusing on the delivery of oil aid, energy-related equipment and materials to North Korea, Lim said.
In the morning session, North Korea presented a list of energy-related items and materials it wants to receive from other parties, most of which are steel products for renovating its outdated power plants, said a South Korean Foreign Ministry official privy to the talks, requesting anonymity in line with ministry policy.
Japan, meanwhile, reiterated its position that it will not take part in a multilateral aid provision for the North unless the communist regime addresses lingering suspicions regarding abductions of its citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, Lim said.
A U.S. team of nuclear experts traveled to North Korea earlier this month to prepare a plan for disabling key facilities at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang. South Korean and U.S. officials have said other teams of technical experts will visit North Korea as early as this week to begin actual disablement procedures.
The communist government has already shut down its sole operating reactor in Yongbyon under an initial phase of the Feb. 13 deal in return for a shipment of 50,000 tons of oil aid from South Korea.
The Yongbyon complex is believed to have produced enough plutonium for more than a dozen bombs — including the device North Korea detonated a year ago to prove its long-suspected nuclear capability.
Also on Monday, a member of the European Parliament just back from meetings in North Korea said the country is ready to fulfill its nuclear promises.
"From the North Korean side they mentioned they will fulfill everything" they pledged in the six-party talks, said Hubert Pirker, who led a delegation of EU lawmakers.