BEIJING -- North Korea demanded massive energy aid yesterday at six-nation talks where Washington insisted that the North give up nuclear weapons development, Japanese news reports said.
The North wants the equivalent of 2,000 megawatts of power per year -- an estimated one-fourth of its current total consumption -- in exchange for freezing work on its nuclear program, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing diplomatic sources, on the second day of talks in the Chinese capital. In the United States, a megawatt can supply power to about 1,000 homes.
It was unclear whether Washington would even discuss such a request since the United States says the North must commit to dismantling the program, not just freezing development.
The United States offered its first detailed proposal for ending the dispute Wednesday, offering the North a step-by-step plan that would provide energy aid and security guarantees in exchange for dismantling the nuclear program.
Both Japan and South Korea say they would consider giving the North fuel oil if it freezes its nuclear program as a step toward its eventual dismantling. The United States says it would not provide energy assistance under its proposal.
Also yesterday, US and North Korean envoys held a rare one-on-one meeting at a Chinese government guesthouse, a US Embassy spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity. She did not immediately have any details of the discussions.
Competing US and North Korean proposals for ending the dispute dominated the second day of talks, which also include Russia.
"There are considerable differences, but there is common ground as well," said Cho Tae-yong, a member of the South Korean delegation. He would not give any details of the proposals.
North Korea was offering to freeze work at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon, according to Kyodo. It did not say whether that included a commitment sought by Washington to dismantle all nuclear facilities.
It said the North's energy request was equivalent to the generating capacity of two light-water nuclear reactors pledged by the United States in an earlier 1994 agreement on freezing the North's nuclear program.
Construction of those reactors -- already considerably delayed -- was halted after the United States said the North admitted in October 2002 to having begun a new secret nuclear program.
US officials said their proposal was meant to break the impasse in talks, which went through two earlier rounds with no major progress.
The US proposal would include a three-month preparation period during which the North would freeze work on its nuclear program, submit a list of all nuclear activities, and remove key weapons ingredients.