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US sees North Korea as an equal in nuclear talks
Updated: 2005-03-25 15:42

The United States is prepared to talk to North Korea as an equal, and Pyongyang should take recent comments by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a signal of that commitment, South Korea's foreign minister said on Friday.

Rice, during an Asian visit last week, called the North "a sovereign state," which foreign policy analysts said was an attempt to appease Pyongyang's demand that she apologize for having called it "an outpost of tyranny."

"North Korea keeps talking about not getting treated right at the six-party talks, so (Rice) was noting a willingness to have dialogue as equals," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as telling a seminar.

North Korea has said a condition for a resumption of stalled six-party disarmament talks would be for the United States to cease a policy toward it that Pyongyang sees as hostile.

Three rounds of the talks by the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia have produced little progress.

Pyongyang has said joint military drills by South Korea and the United States, which end on Friday, were proof that Washington was planning a nuclear war against it.

Ban said North Korea had not shut the door on the six-party talks completely. He also denied there was a June deadline, mentioned by a diplomatic source in Tokyo, for the North to return to the talks.

"President Bush said there was no deadline, and we haven't set a deadline," Ban said, but added, "We have waited considerably, because June would be one year (from the last round.)"

US President Bush has denied there was a deadline and urged the North to return to the talks.

North Korea's premier Pak Pong-ju is visiting China, but there was no breakthrough in any decision on the six-party talks, Beijing said on Thursday.

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