North Korea agrees to receive half of aid in equipment under nuclear deal

>PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) – North Korea agreed Tuesday to accept half of the economic aid it has been promised for disabling its nuclear reactor in energy-related equipment and other materials, a South Korean official said.

The chief U.S. nuclear envoy said a team of experts would go to the North this week to disable the reactor, which produces plutonium for bombs.

North Korea had been promised 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil for disabling the reactor and other facilities. The U.S. had said some of the oil aid would be given in other forms of assistance, as Pyongyang only has limited capability to receive oil shipments.

North Korea agreed to receive half the aid in the form of energy-related equipment and materials, South Korea’s deputy nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam said after concluding two days of talks with diplomats from North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

The North, which has already received 50,000 tons of oil in return for shutting down the reactor in July, will still be given about 450,000 tons in fuel oil, Lim said.

On Monday, North Korea presented a list of hundreds of alternative items – mostly steel products for renovating its outdated power plants – at the start of the meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom, located in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.

The North will also receive 50,000 tons of oil every month, he added.

Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported Tuesday evening that a tanker carrying the first shipment of heavy fuel oil, supplied by the United States, had arrived in North Korea. The Kyodo report cited anonymous sources close to the ongoing negotiations with the communist country, and could not immediately be confirmed independently.

Pyongyang has promised to disable the reactor by year’s end. It would mark the biggest step the communist nation has ever taken to scale back its nuclear weapons program.

In another diplomatic move Tuesday, Liu Yunshan, a top Chinese Communist Party official, met North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Il and delivered a message of friendship from China’s president.

It was a rare glimpse of Kim on Chinese television and a possible sign that China, the North’s biggest aid source and trading partner, is using diplomacy to smooth over tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear test a year ago.