SEOUL, South Korea South Korea plans to send 5,010 tons of steel to North Korea next week as part of an aid-for-disarmament deal, an official said Sunday, as a deadline for Pyongyang to declare all its nuclear programs and disable its facilities loomed.
The shipment is part of an aid package the North has been promised by the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan in return for irreversibly disabling its nuclear reactor and declaring all nuclear programs by the end of this year.
The steel shipment, the first of several, will depart for the North Korean port of Nampo on Dec. 17, the Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.
North Korea has requested that half of the economic aid it has been promised be given in energy-related equipment mostly steel products for renovating its outdated power plants.
The energy-starved North is also in the process of receiving a separate aid package of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from the United States, South Korea, China and Russia. Japan has opted out of contributing to that part of the aid package, citing a lack of progress in resolving the issue of abductions of its citizens by North Korea during the 1970s and '80s.
The official also said Seoul is pushing for a working group meeting with the U.S. and other regional partners this week in Beijing to discuss the issue of energy-related equipment aid for the North, though the exact date for the proposed meeting has not been finalized.
North Korea began disabling its reactor, which was shut down in July, and two other facilities last month under the watch of U.S. experts.
Pyongyang has promised to complete the process by the end of this month along with declaring its nuclear programs, but U.S. and South Korean officials have recently suggested the deadline is likely to slip by.