The United States and China are preparing to provide tens of millions of dollars in fuel aid to North Korea as it moves to declare and disable its nuclear weapons program, US officials have said.
The planned aid came as US news reports quoting intelligence sources suggested yesterday that North Korea could be helping Syria build a nuclear weapons program, raising concerns over Pyongyang's proliferation record.
Under an aid-for-disarmament programme, China was expected to send 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil to its hardline communist neighbor this month to be followed by a similar US shipment, a US administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
US President George W Bush's administration notified Congress on Tuesday "of its intent to provide USD 25 million that would cover the third tranche shipment of 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil to North Korea," the official told AFP.
The US legislature has to be informed of any Washington aid to North Korea, which is currently under sanctions. Pyongyang, which tested a nuclear bomb in October last year, is also on a US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.
The first tranche of fuel aid was provided by South Korea in July after its northern neighbour closed its key Yongbyon nuclear plant as part of a six-nation agreement struck on February 13 that promised energy aid and diplomatic and security guarantees to Pyongyang if it abandons its nuclear arsenal.
"And China is preparing the second shipment of HFO (heavy fuel oil) likely in September," the US official said.