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N. Korea says it remains open to talks
( 2003-09-02 17:19) (Agencies)

North Korea said Tuesday that it is willing to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program "through dialogue," in an apparent softening of its stance following last week's six-nation talks in Beijing.

After last week's landmark talks in the Chinese capital, North Korea angrily dismissed the need for more talks and threatened to strengthen its "nuclear deterrent force," casting doubt on the prospects for future meetings.

On Tuesday, the North's state-run news agency, KCNA, repeated North Korea's threat to increase its nuclear capabilities unless the United States changes its policy and signs a nonaggression treaty with the communist state, but also said North Korea is willing to continue the six-nation talks.

"We have not yet changed our firm will to resolve the nuclear problem between the DPRK and the United States through dialogue," KCNA said in a commentary monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

Last week, representatives from the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia met in Beijing to discuss ways to end the nuclear crisis. After the meeting, China, North Korea's only remaining major ally, released a statement saying all the six countries agreed to continue to talk. But North Korea later said it no longer had "interest or expectations" for such talks.

Despite the North's threat to boycott future meetings, other participants said that the six parties reached a tentative agreement to meet again around October.

North Korea says the United States must sign a nonaggression treaty, open diplomatic ties and provide economic aid before it can feel safe enough to dismantle its nuclear program. The United States insists that North Korea first scrap its nuclear program before Washington can consider providing security guarantees and help for its moribund economy.

KCNA said last week's talks "failed to produce even the most basic progress and turned into empty armchair discussions because of the United States' gangster-like arguments."

"The United States insists that we take off our clothes until we get stark naked, while it refuses to move even one step," KCNA said.

Earlier Tuesday, North Korea warned of rising tensions along the disputed western sea border with South Korea, accusing the Southern navy of infiltrating the North's territorial waters with warships.

South Korean warships crossed into North Korean waters on five occasions on Tuesday morning, North Korea's state-run radio Central Broadcasting Station said, quoting "unidentified military sources."

"The situation in the waters is getting tenser everyday because of the repeated violations," the radio dispatch said. The North Korean broadcast was monitored by Yonhap.

The western maritime border between the two Koreas is not clearly marked, and both sides often accuse the other of violations.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been high since October, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted running a nuclear program in violation of international agreements.

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