US, N.Korea begin financial meeting

Updated: 2006-12-19 12:59

Pyongyang repeated its assertion that it be considered a nuclear weapons power and that the talks be transformed into negotiations over mutual arms reductions in which it would be accorded equal footing with the United States. If its demands aren't met, the North said, it would increase its nuclear arsenal, according to the summary.

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But the United States and other countries stressed the main focus would be on getting the country to give up atomic arms.

"We would like denuclearization via a diplomatic negotiation. If they don't want that, we're quite prepared to go the other road ... which is a pretty tough road," Hill said, implying North Korea could face further international sanctions.

In Washington, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns brushed off the North's opening salvo as no surprise.

"If past is prologue, I mean that's the way the North Koreans operate," he said. "Let's see where we are by the end of the week."

China noted the sides had some "very pronounced differences" but pushed for results.

"We have finished the stage of commitment for commitment and now should follow the principle of action for action," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu told reporters, echoing phrasing from the earlier agreement.

South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo proposed that the parties push for implementing the 2005 agreement within a few months.

"We urged North Korea to take bold and substantial initial steps to dismantle its nuclear program and stressed that the other five countries' corresponding measures should also be bold and substantial," he told reporters.

The latest North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in 2002 after US officials said the North had admitted to a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 disarmament deal, leading to the communist nation's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

North Korea is believed to have enough radioactive material to make about a half-dozen atomic bombs, and its main nuclear reactor remains in operation to create more weapons-grade plutonium.


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