DPRK: Will Pyongyang accept Seoul at power switch?

Responding to the sensitive issue of whether North Korea will put half its future electricity supply under the control of the South, senior officials in Seoul tried yesterday to put the matter to rest, saying the offer will be backed by a multilateral accord and will be based on inter-Korean trust.

In a radio interview yesterday, Chung Dong-young, South Korea's unification minister and the head of the National Security Council, dismissed concerns that Pyongyang will not allow Seoul to command the switch for the power supply.

"When you look into this matter carefully, direct electricity transmission is not something that can be cut off recklessly," Mr. Chung said. "The project will be carried out based on trust between the two Koreas, thus building confidence is the most important aspect.

"Also, the South is sending the electricity, but the supply agreement will be reached within the framework of the six-nation talks as part of a package deal for nuclear dismantlement," Mr. Chung said. "Therefore, that can also work as a stability guarantee. More discussions regarding the issue can follow at the six-party negotiations."

Mr. Chung said the program should be seen as a long-term infrastructure investment to prepare for the post-unification era.

Song Min-soon, South Korea's deputy foreign minister and chief delegate to the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, voiced optimism yesterday that Pyongyang would accede to the plan.

"North Korea will have to consider various aspects, but the significant proposal has constructive and positive effects, so we expect that the North will accept it in any form," Mr. Song said in a radio interview. "Before the six-nation talks open at the end of this month, the North will give an answer in one way or another."

Last month, South Korea told North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that Seoul was willing to transmit 2 million kilowatts of electricity to the North in return for Pyongyang's agreement to abandon its nuclear arms program.

Pyongyang has not yet responded, but the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States will meet in Beijing in the last week of July to try and make progress at the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

Another senior National Security Council official also told reporters that the offer of power should be seen as a trust-building measure between the two Koreas, saying "the transmission will not be shut off unless there is a war."

Citing the Kaesong industrial complex project, the official said inter-Korean programs have been carried out based on growing confidence and a desire for mutual existence on the peninsula.

He also said Seoul believed the offer was "the fastest and the most certain" means of providing energy to the North and to meet requests from Pyongyang for electric power in 2000 after the inter-Korean summit.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said supplying the promised electricity to the North after 2008 would be possible under the current power supply plan.

"In 2008, we will be able to produce 71 million kilowatts, and our power reserve rate will reach 24 percent," a ministry official said. "We won't have a problem sending 2 million kilowatts."

The official, however, added that Seoul will need to build additional transmission lines because most power plants are located in the southern parts of the country and 42 percent of the nation's power supply goes into the capital region.

by Ser Myo-ja, Jung Kyung-min <myoja@joongang.co.kr>


JoongAng Daily
(c)JoongAng Ilbo, The information provided in this product is for personal use only. None of it may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the written permission of JoongAng Ilbo.