Gov’t signs contract with refinery SK for fuel oil aid to N. Korea

Yonhap
Sohn Suk-joo
7/10/2007

South Korea has signed a contract with a local refinery to provide heavy fuel oil to North Korea for shipment next week as part of a multilateral aid-for-disarmament deal, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

The contract comes on the heels of international nuclear watchdog monitors preparing for entry into the North next week for verification of the North’s shutdown of its nuclear facilities. Reports also said China is planning to host a fresh round of six-party talks on the North’s denuclearization next Wednesday.

“On Monday, the government signed a contract with SK Energy to provide 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea valued at 22.2 billion won (US$22 million),” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Nam-sik said. The contract includes transportation fees and insurance premiums.

The first shipment of 6,200 tons will be sent to North Korea next Thursday as part of a six-party deal calling for the communist state to take steps to denuclearize in exchange for economic rewards and other incentives.

The date of delivery, originally set for July 14, has been advanced as North Korea is moving to shut down its main nuclear reactor under the Feb. 13 agreement with South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. The five regional players have engaged North Korea in the six-party nuclear disarmament talks since 2003.

With the earlier than expected oil delivery, South Korea expects that North Korea will accelerate its process of shutting down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, about 90 kilometers north of Pyongyang.

North Korea is entitled to one million tons of heavy fuel oil as a reward for a series of steps to shut down and disable its key nuclear facilities. South Korea is responsible for the first shipment of 50,000 tons.

In late June, working-level officials from the two Koreas agreed on the shipping arrangements. The South Korean portion of the aid should be sent within two weeks. The remaining 950,000 tons, to be split equally between the five parties involved in the six-way talks, will be given when the North takes further steps to disarm.

The cost of the aid is to be shouldered equally by the other nations in the six-party talks. But Japan has vowed not to provide any assistance to the North until the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang is resolved.

Implementation of the February deal had been delayed pending resolution of a banking dispute over US$25 million of the North’s funds that were frozen in a Macau bank. The issue was resolved in June after the money was transferred to Pyongyang with the help of the U.S. and Russian central banks.

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