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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 04:17 GMT 05:17 UK
US hails energy offer to N Korea
By Charles Scanlon
BBC News, Seoul

Satellite image of Japan and Korean peninsula, showing North Korea almost black - archive image
North Korea seen in near darkness compared to the South and Japan
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has welcomed a South Korean offer of massive energy aid for North Korea.

At a joint news conference with her South Korean counterpart in Seoul, Ms Rice described the proposal as useful and creative.

But she said the Communist state must first agree to scrap all its nuclear weapons capabilities.

North Korea has agreed to resume international talks on its nuclear programme in Beijing later in July.

'Dire need'

Ms Rice arrived in Seoul just as South Korea revealed a major new initiative to supply electric power to the North.

N Korea agreed to mothball its nuclear reactors in a 1994 deal
In return, it was to receive two 1,000MW light-water reactors
Deal collapsed in 2002 over enriched uranium programme
The North later restarted its Yongbyon reactor
S Korea now offering 2,000MW of electricity aid

She said North Korea clearly had a dire need for electric power.

"We've always said we would try to address the energy needs of the North Koreans," she said

"There simply isn't any problem in having the South Koreans having put forward what is a very creative idea about how to do this without proliferation risks."

Ms Rice said the US had offered no new incentives to get the North Koreans back to the negotiating table on the nuclear issue and it had not changed an offer it put on the table at the last round of talks in Beijing a year ago.

That included a vague promise of security guarantees and economic aid, but only after the North Koreans made the first move.

Ms Rice did not make clear in what form the new South Korean offer would be presented to the North Koreans when talks resume.

She said she was optimistic that the negotiations could bear fruit, but that depended on the attitude of North Korea.

See Condoleezza Rice speak in South Korea

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