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North Korea: Aid Needed To Solve Impasse

DPR Of Korea: UN Envoy Says Impasse Will Only End With Economic Aid

There will be no resolution to the international tension over the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) unless the impoverished Asian country receives support for its ailing economy, a United Nations envoy said today.

Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York after a recent trip to the region, Maurice F. Strong, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, said the DPRK faces major economic problems despite some signs of recent progress.

"It's quite clear that there will be no long-term economic support without a settlement. But it's equally true that you won't get a settlement without a major economic dimension [to any package]," he said.

He said the DPRK's inability to meet its energy needs is "the single biggest constraint" on its development, retarding its economy, its security and its ability to provide humanitarian relief for its citizens.

Mr. Strong said that while the DPRK has had a closed economy, "it wants to move out," adding that during his most recent visit he saw a vibrant street market in the capital, Pyongyang.

But he said the country seriously lacked foreign investment to drive its economic development.

Mr. Strong's remarks come after another round of six-way talks in the so-called Beijing process between the DPRK, the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States.

The six nations have been engaged in talks since Pyongyang announced in late 2002 that it planned to "lift the freeze" on its nuclear activities and that it was pulling out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr. Strong said there has been "commendable" progress in the latest round of talks in Beijing, but warned there was still "a residue of deep mistrust built up over more than half a century."

The DPRK and ROK remain technically at war following the signing of a ceasefire agreement in July 1953.

Mr. Strong said the UN was "a very active supporter" of the Beijing process and was likely to exert an increased role in resolving the tensions in the future.

Meanwhile, at a press conference today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he welcomed an offer by the US to provide some aid and security guarantees if the DPRK ends its nuclear programme as "a positive step."

"This also shows that the parties are determined to find a diplomatic way to resolve their differences and that at least they are beginning to exchange ideas and engage in dialogue seriously," he said in response to questions.

Asked about reports that the DPRK has threatened to conduct a nuclear test, Mr. Annan said he could not say "whether it's a bluff or whether it is real."

"But obviously, we need to get the parties that are involved in the talks also to engage them," he added. "The Chinese are playing a very important role here, and I hope they will be able to dissuade the North Koreans, if they are not bluffing, not to go in that direction."

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