With chief US envoy Christopher Hill currently in South Korea (and on his way to Japan for meetings on Monday), posturing has begun well in advance of the resumption of this round of the Six Party Talks.
Forbes quotes an Asahi Shimbun report that says the DPRK has offered to suspend activity at its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in exchange for half a million tons (or more) of oil per year (or the equivalent). Apparently the offer was made last week during meetings between US State Department officials and the North's chief negotiator, Kim Kye-Gwan.
When asked about this offer by the Japanese media (NHK) while in Seoul, Hill admitted that energy assistance was possible, but also immediately reframed the discussion to emphasize that his (the USG's) primary concern was making progress in terms of implementing denuclearization. The Forbes report then cites a Kyodo report (that used information from unnamed government sources..which I always love) to assert that Japan would refuse to grant food or energy aid without a guarantee that the abduction issue would be resolved (no matter the progress made in other areas).
It will be interesting to see how public statements change after Hill's visit to Japan and in the run up to the talks themselves. While this may all be par for the course in terms of diplomatic and political posturing, I'm not sure that it's helpful to be tying conditions so strictly to such intractable issues before negotations have even begun (although I understand how one builds leverage by doing so). Why pile the table high when you're just now getting back to meetings on setting a plan to implement an agreement reached more than a year ago? It's also somewhat discouraging that after all this time, the five non-DPRK parties still don't seem to be presenting a united front on what they want and how they're going to achieve it (although this may be intentional, or due to domestic political reasons).
And so it goes...let's see what the media has for us tomorrow.