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North Korea hardens stance ahead of nuclear talks
Updated: 2005-09-12 09:59

Six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs open on Tuesday in Beijing with Pyongyang having hardened its stance on its right to have a civilian program -- a key sticking point in the discussions, Reuters reported.

The talks among North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States headed into a recess on August 7 after failing to settle even on a statement of principles during 13 days of discussions in Beijing.

Since then, North Korea has stepped up its rhetoric on what it says is its inherent right to a peaceful nuclear program and delayed the original late-August date for restarting the talks.

Officials from the other parties say a peaceful nuclear program should be considered, if at all, after North Korea builds up trust with the international community. For now, they fear such a project could be misused to make atomic weapons.

The other parties to the talks say the top priority -- and the key to earning trust -- is to have North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons programs completely, verifiably and permanently. The North says it already has nuclear weapons.

"The peaceful use (of nuclear programs) is not the biggest issue at the talks. The biggest issue is whether North Korea will clearly commit itself to abandoning its nuclear weapons programs and other nuclear programs completely," said a Japanese delegate to the six-party talks.

North Korea sees things differently.

It has said it will press ahead with plans for a civilian nuclear program, and U.S. objections could harm the talks, which this time are set to last a week but could continue longer.

"Nobody should expect the DPRK to waive its right to peaceful nuclear activity," an official commentary said. The North's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

A senior South Korean official familiar with the talks said behind the scenes North Korea had been pressing to restart a suspended project to supply it with relatively proliferation-resistant light-water reactors.

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