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Bush rules out peace treaty with Pyongyang
( 2003-10-20 09:07) (Agencies via Xinhua)

United States President George W. Bush has for the first time left the door open to providing security assurances to persuade the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to give up its nuclear weapons programme but he said a non-aggression pact was not possible.

Answering questions from reporters as he met Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok yesterday, Bush ruled out a formal non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang but reiterated that the United States had no plans to invade the DPRK.

President Bush walks with Thailand's King Bhumiphol as he arrives for a state dinner at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Oct. 19, 2003. At far right is Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Queen Sirikit is second from left. [AP]
But he did for the first time express a willingness to provide Pyongyang with some kind of assurances short of the formal non-aggression treaty that Pyongyang demands as a condition for giving up its nuclear weapons programme.

"If we think there's an opportunity to move the process forward, we will discuss it with our partners. We will not have a treaty, if that's what you're asking. That's off the table," Bush said on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

What form the assurances would take was a matter for talks among US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his counterparts from China, Japan, Russia and the Republic of Korea - the five states that have been in talks with Pyongyang about its programme.

The crisis is certain to come up at the forum with the five states all present although Rodong Sinmun, newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea, said APEC was not the place to discuss the issue.

US officials stressed that any agreement would not be a bilateral one between the United States and the DPRK but a multilateral accord within the format of the six-party talks.

Powell said on Friday the United States had drafted new ideas on security assurances to offer Pyongyang in exchange for a promise to dismantle its nuclear weapons programmes. He said the effort was in its early stages.

He said Washington saw one possible way forward as being a public written document, preferably signed also by some of Pyongyang's neighbours.

In contrast to his war against Iraq, Bush has been pursuing a diplomatic approach to Pyongyang and its nuclear weapons. The US Central Intelligence Agency has said it believes the North has produced at least one nuclear weapon and possibly two.

Bush said the United States was exploring all options with the other parties involved in negotiations with Pyongyang.

The dispute erupted a year ago when Washington said the DPRK had admitted to a nuclear weapons programme, and Pyongyang then pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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