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DPRK doesn't care who wins US election
Updated: 2004-03-11 16:51

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) dismissed any idea it wanted George W. Bush to lose November's U.S. presidential election, saying Thursday the key for the winner -- Democrat or Republican -- would be to change policy toward Pyongyang.

A day earlier, DPRK threatened to boost the nuclear deterrent it says it has and blamed the U.S. stance in recent six-party talks for forcing its hand. Washington dismissed the apparently tougher line from Pyongyang as rhetoric.

Analysts say little progress on curbing DPRK's nuclear programs was now likely before the U.S. presidential elections in November, thus giving Pyongyang more time to try to develop a nuclear capability.

Pyongyang denied it could be stalling in six-way talks over its nuclear ambitions to see whether a more amenable Democratic U.S. president is elected, saying it did not care which party's candidate triumphed in the U.S. presidential election.

"Whoever (is) elected U.S. president should be willing to make a switchover in its policy toward the DPRK, drop the hostile policy toward it and express readiness to coexist with it," the official KCNA news agency said. 

"This is a main point," it said.

"If the U.S. makes a switchover in its policy toward the DPRK, though belatedly, progress will be made in the settlement of the nuclear issue," KCNA said.

In Seoul, South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator voiced hopes that initial working group meetings, which were agreed at the Beijing talks, could be held between April and June before a new round of six-party talks.

"We will make our best efforts to get the North Korean nuclear issue to a settlement phase through a third round of talks after holding one or two working group meetings during the second quarter of the year," Yonhap news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck as saying.

The United States has demanded the "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement" of the North's nuclear programs that are believed to involve both plutonium and uranium.

The North statement Wednesday voiced anger at such demands and followed similar shows of defiance since six-way talks involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia in Beijing last month.

"The reckless U.S. stance only pushes the DPRK to further increase its nuclear deterrent force," the state-run KCNA news agency Wednesday cited a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

The impasse "does nothing bad to the DPRK as it will have time to take more necessary steps with increased pace," he said.

In Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said DPRK's latest statement did not reflect the position Pyongyang took at the negotiations.

U.S. officials say they believe DPRK already possesses one or two nuclear weapons and that the state could be making more.


The United States has said it is in no hurry to put together a deal because it wants to take time to come up with an accord that will stick.

However, analysts on North Korea said the administration of Bush, who has branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and pre-war Iraq, may prefer to intensify the pressure.

"The administration seems incapable of making any kind of deal or doing serious negotiations," said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korean expert at the Monterey Institute's Center for Non-Proliferation Studies in California.

Pinkston said he saw small signs of gradual convergence on the plutonium program, although he expected no progress before the U.S. elections.

"The North Koreans are going to wait until after the election because they saw a big policy reverse after Clinton," he said.

In October 2002, the United States said the North had admitted to developing nuclear arms -- violating a Clinton-era agreement.

In early 2003, Pyongyang expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and removed their seals from a mothballed reactor.

"The far-fetched U.S. assertion about this program is intended to attack the DPRK under that pretext just as it did against Iraq," KCNA quoted the North Korean spokesman as saying in a renewed denial of the existence of a uranium program.

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