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North Korea to US: Don't put us on a par with Iraq
( 2003-08-13 17:46) (Agencies)

North Korea, laying out tough terms ahead of six-way talks, warned the United States on Wednesday against treating it like Iraq and using intrusive inspections to force it to abandon its nuclear program.

In a show of rigidity that analysts said represented North Korea's customary way of leveraging a weak hand, North Korea's Foreign Ministry revived Pyongyang's long-standing demand for a non-aggression treaty and diplomatic relations with Washington.

The treaty and diplomatic normalization were needed to demonstrate a "U.S. switchover in its hostile policy" toward North Korea, the ministry said in a statement published by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"It is clear that as long as the U.S. insists on its hostile policy toward the DPRK, the latter will not abandon its nuclear deterrent force," said the statement. DPRK are the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"It will be considered that the U.S. has practically given up its hostile policy toward the DPRK when a non-aggression treaty with legal binding is concluded and diplomatic relations are established between the DPRK and the U.S," the ministry said.

The lengthy statement blaming Washington for the 10-month-old crisis also dismissed talk of a multi-nation inspection regime for its nuclear facilities as a U.S. ruse to disarm North Korea.

"It is a mistake if the U.S. attempts to force an 'earlier inspection' upon the DPRK, putting it on a par with Iraq," it said, calling such inspections "impossible and unthinkable."

Nuclear talks are likely to begin in Beijing on August 27, although the date has not been finalized. The talks will bring together the United States, both Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.

Participating countries continued to fine-tune their approach to talks, with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing due in Seoul on Wednesday after visiting Japan, and envoys from South and North Korea holding separate meetings in Moscow.

China and Russia, who backed the North in the 1950-53 Korean War and remain its closest allies, have urged Washington to address North Korea's security concerns. South Korean officials have said they expect that issue to dominate the Beijing talks.

Wednesday's statement said the U.S. threat was made clear in President Bush's 2002 speech branding North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and Iran, and in an American policy envisioning pre-emptive strikes against rogue states.

North Korea also rejected ideas floated by the United States and others that fell short of a non-aggression pact, including written U.S. pledges not to attack and talk of collective regional security guarantees for the regime.

"The six-way talks are taking place not because the U.S. pressured North Korea to talk, but the other way around," said Kim Woo-sang of Yonsei University in Seoul. "The U.S. can say: 'If you guys don't want to talk, that's fine with us."'

Koh Yu-hwan of Dongkuk University Department of North Korean Studies said the North's nuclear brinkmanship reflected a survival strategy based on Pyongyang's belief that "the legality of a U.S. promise will protect them -- they want this more than they want to be a nuclear power."

The United States, which keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea to bolster defenses against the North's 1.1 million-strong army, has said non-aggression pacts went out of fashion in the 1930s and Congress would never approve a treaty with Pyongyang.

The Beijing talks will follow months of tension that began when Washington announced last October that Pyongyang was pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

The crisis escalated early this year after North Korea expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted a mothballed reactor at Yongbyon, north of the capital, Pyongyang.

At an initial round of three-way talks in Beijing involving the United States, North Korea and China in April, the North's delegate told his U.S. counterpart that Pyongyang already had nuclear bombs and was prepared to make more.

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