N. Korea to Present Deal to Energy Proposal
N. Korea to Present Deal to Energy Proposal
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  • 승인 2005.07.21 09:26
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[The Korea Times] wednesday, July 20, 2005
Pyongyang will likely present a counterproposal to Seoul’s offer of electricity aid, demanding that Seoul also build power plants in North Korea, a former unification minister said at a lecture on Monday.

A high-ranking Seoul official, however, said on Tuesday that North Korea would accept South Korea’s proposal at the six-party nuclear talks, which will begin in Beijing on July 26, and will not request big changes to it.

When Unification Minister Chung Dong-young met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang last month, he offered electricity aid to North Korea in return for Pyongyang’s dismantlement of its nuclear programs.

Pyongyang has not yet reacted to the proposal, leading many analysts to predict that North Korea will likely request some changes to South Korea’s offer of around 2 million kilowatts of electricity per year.

"I personally think that the North’s military will strongly resist opening up the country too much," Park Jae-kyu, former unification minister and now president of Kyungnam University in Masan, said at the special lecture in Seoul. "So, it is highly possible that Pyongyang will come up with a counterproposal."

North Korea experts in Seoul say that even though Kim Jong-il has great power in the Pyongyang regime, he can not ignore the opinions of military generals, the most conservative force in the communist state, who see energy as a matter of national sovereignty.

As a countermeasure, Pyongyang will likely ask Seoul to build power plants in the northern part of North Korea, Park said. Many experts believe that Pyongyang might want to have those power plants under its control.

Park also predicted that Pyongyang would request Seoul provide electricity to the neighboring cities of Kaesong, just above the Demilitarized Zone, and Mt. Kumgang in the southeastern part of North Korea, as a first step to solve its energy shortage.

But the Seoul official, who has been deeply involved in mapping out Seoul’s proposal of energy aid, told The Korea Times that North Korea would accept it if Pyongyang could receive fuel oil for the next three years.

The electricity could be delivered by 2008 at the earliest because it would take at least three years to construct transmission facilities, the South Korean government said.

"Pyongyang is pressed by its urgent need of electricity and wants a solution as soon as possible," the official said on a customary condition of anonymity. "The North will likely accept our proposal if it can get back its heavy oil supply during the construction period."

The official also said that he thinks North Korea will not likely ask South Korea to construct steam power stations, given that they will take longer to build and cost much more.

But he acknowledged that Pyongyang will not accept every part of Seoul’s offer.

"The North might think that our offer has some ambiguousness that needs to be clarified", he said. "So I think the North will try to go through it at the six-party talks before saying okay."

The targeted amount of electricity that South Korea plans to deliver is around 2 million kilowatts per year, similar to what an earlier project to build two light-water reactors under a 1994 deal was supposed to produce.

Construction of power transmission facilities between South Korea’s Yangju and the North Korean capital of Pyongyang would immediately begin when the electricity-starved country agrees to give up its nuclear programs, the South Korean government said.

Seoul plans to build the transmission facilities by diverting the budget assigned for the two light-water reactors, for which South Korea will pay 70 percent of the additional $3.5 billion for the completion of the energy facilities in Sinpo, North Korea.

The $4.6 billion plan for the two reactors by the New York-based Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) has been in crisis over the past two years as the U.S. and Japan wanted to scrap it.

Till now, $1.54 billion has been poured into the KEDO project with South Korea contributing 70 percent.

Since the U.S. stopped oil shipments to the communist state in 2002 after arguing that it was pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program, North Korea has suffered a severe energy shortage.

The oil provision was one of the key components of the 1994 deal between the U.S. and North Korea, under which the communist state promised to freeze its nuclear facilities.

North Korea is capable of producing 7.8 million kilowatts per year. But due to a lack of fuel, it is currently operating only 30 percent of its power plants. Most of them are outdated.

By Park Song-wu Staff Reporter im@koreatimes.co.kr

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