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North Korea says it will not disarm nuclear weapons first

AFP | July 05, 2005

North Korea restated Tuesday its rejection of US demands that it first scrap its nuclear weapons to gain US rewards, casting a shadow over prospects for a return to six-way talks on halting Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme.

There would be no progress at the talks if the United States did not change its "high-handed" stance, the North's ruling communist party newspaper and official mouthpiece, Rodong Sinmun, said.

"It is nonsensical for the US to unilaterally demand the DPRK (North Korea) disarm itself though both have been in the hostile relationship and technically at war for more than a half century," Rodong said.

The newspaper said North Korea "has neither opposed nor shunned the six-party talks," which have been stalled for more than one year.

"If the US persists in demanding the DPRK dismantle its nuclear program first without honoring its commitments, this will get it nowhere," it said.

North Korea has demanded security guarantees, an end to economic sanctions, its removal from the State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring nations and significant energy assistance.

The North Korean comment came amid growing optimism that a new round of the six-way talks, which group the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan, could be brokered within the next few weeks.

North Korea has boycotted the talks since a third round held in June in 2004, citing a "hostile" US policy.

At the third round the United States proposed that North Korea dismantle all of its nuclear programmes before receiving security assurances and economic benefits from Washington.

However, in what was a major concession at that time, Washington said it would not oppose energy aid from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia for North Korea before it dismantled its nuclear programmes.

Previously Washington had insisted on the complete scrapping of nuclear programmes before any concessions.

Pyongyang, however, has consistently refused to scrap its programmes without rewards.

Over the past few weeks, South Korea has put a positive spin on the resumption of six-way talks with Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young holding a series of meetings with top leaders in Pyongyang and Washington.

Chung met on June 17 with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il who said then that Pyongyang was ready to return to talks as early as July if Washington "respect" his regime as a dialogue partner.

Kim however gave no firm date for a return to the talks.

Chung last week met US leaders including Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss a sweetened package aimed at luring North Korea back to the six-way talks and give up its nuclear ambitions.

The nuclear standoff flared in October 2002 when Washington accused Pyongyang of operating a nuclear weapons programme based on enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement.

On February 10 this year, North Korea announced it had nuclear weapons.


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