North Korea stands firm ahead of nuclear talks
( 2003-08-18 14:25) (Agencies)
North Korea standing firm ahead of next week's six-way talks in Beijing, said on Monday it could not dismantle its nuclear deterrent force if the United States did not abandon its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang.
The official KCNA news agency demanded Washington sign a non-aggression pact with North Korea, establish diplomatic ties and make clear it would not hinder Pyongyang's foreign trade.
"If the U.S. does not express its will to make a switchover in its policy toward the DPRK, the DPRK will have no option but to declare that it cannot dismantle its nuclear deterrent force at the talks," KCNA said. DPRK are the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
It was not clear whether the "nuclear deterrent force" KCNA referred to was the arsenal of one or two atomic bombs North Korea is thought to have built or the nuclear complex at Yongbyon where it has reactors and facilities for reprocessing plutonium.
The conditions set out by KCNA echoed those in a lengthy North Korean Foreign Ministry statement last week and were not new even then. But KCNA, whose words carry official weight, appeared to be applying pre-talks pressure by saying the North might say it could not dismantle its atomic deterrent.
The talks between North Korea, the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea are set to start on August 27.
China's Xinhua news agency said a high-ranking Chinese military delegation left for Pyongyang on Monday for a "goodwill" visit ahead of the talks.
The KCNA statement also attacked U.S. steps to put economic pressure on North Korea. These include include building a coalition for curbing what Washington calls trade in counterfeit dollars and illegal drugs accounting for half of Pyongyang's annual hard currency income.
"The U.S. continued pressure on the DPRK including economic blockade and military blackmail would only sour the atmosphere of the talks," KCNA said.
"The key to the solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula is for the U.S. to make a fundamental switchover in its hostile policy toward the DPRK."
Experts on North Korean negotiating tactics say Pyongyang often tries to leverage its weak diplomatic hand by imposing new conditions or agenda items at the last minute, the acceptance of which could represent advance concessions by opponents.
Last week, North Korea 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 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.
After an initial round of three-way talks in Beijing involving the United States, North Korea and China in April, Washington said the North's delegate had told his U.S. counterpart that Pyongyang already had nuclear bombs and was prepared to make more.
In a sign of unease on the Korean peninsula, North Korea said it would not send its planned team to the World Student Games in the South Korean city of Taegu because of security concerns after an anti-North protest in Seoul last week.
South Korean media quoted officials in Seoul as saying they were trying to persuade the North to change its mind.
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