SKorea reaffirms deal for NKorea

SEOUL: South Korea has reaffirmed its offer of massive economic aid for impoverished North Korea if it scraps its nuclear weapons, officials said Tuesday.

Chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-Lac and Rhee Chang-Young, vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission, briefed foreign investors on the plan last week at a video conference hosted by banking giant Goldman Sachs.

It was first proposed by incoming President Lee Myung-Bak 17 months ago as part of his "Denuclearisation, Openness, 3000" policy.

This pledges to raise the North's gross domestic income to 3,000 dollars in a decade if it scraps its atomic arsenal, through a proposed international aid fund of 40 billion dollars and other major assistance projects.

The communist North has angrily rejected the "Vision 3,000" initiative because it is linked to denuclearisation.

But the plan has attracted renewed attention since the US administration announced a "two-track" strategy on the North -- tough enforcement of sanctions and an attempt to lure Pyongyang back to the bargaining table.

Wi, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said various ideas were discussed at last week's video conference to help North Korea, but only on condition it scraps its atomic weapons.

He was speaking in the Thai resort of Phuket, where the ASEAN Regional Forum on security is being held this week.

Kurt Campbell, assistant US secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, said during a visit to Seoul which ended Monday that the United States and its negotiating partners are preparing a "comprehensive package" of incentives.

"If North Korea is prepared to take serious and irreversible steps (towards denuclearisation) the US, South Korea, Japan, China and others will be able to put together a comprehensive package that would be attractive to North Korea," he told reporters.

"But in this respect, North Korea really has to take some of the first steps."

Six-nation nuclear disarmament talks grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, the US and Russia began almost six years ago but got bogged down last December.

After the United Nations Security Council censured its April 5 long-range rocket launch, the North announced it was quitting the talks and restarting its atomic weapons programme.

It staged its second nuclear test on May 25, prompting the Council to adopt a resolution imposing tougher sanctions.