Sun, Aug 31, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Pyongyang is not impressed with US demands at talks


North Korea said yesterday the US had adopted a harder line at this week's six-way nuclear talks and had demanded Pyongyang "drop its gun first".

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the North's official KCNA news agency the Beijing talks were a trick aimed at disarming the communist state and implied Pyongyang had no interest in more talks, despite agreement in China to meet again.

The spokesman said the US delegation had hardened its stance by saying during the three-day talks it would only negotiate fully with North Korea once the North had scrapped its nuclear development program.

"This means the US asking the DPRK to drop its gun first, saying it would not open fire, when both sides are levelling guns at each other," it said, referring to the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"How can the DPRK trust the US and drop its gun? Even a child would not be taken in by such a trick."

It said the talks -- also attended by South Korea, Japan, Russia and China -- had been reduced to an "armchair argument" that convinced the North Washington did not intend to change.

"This made it impossible for the DPRK to have any interest or expectation for the talks as they are not beneficial to it," KCNA quoted the spokesman as saying in its English-language version.

The earlier Korean-language text said: "We are not interested at all in this kind of talks."

It was not clear whether the spokesman's comments were a formal change in policy from Friday's agreement to talk again or part of Pyongyang's rhetorical repertoire. The English-language version was ambiguous enough to refer to this week's talks rather than future meetings.

Earlier, an unidentified North Korean delegate to the talks made similar remarks to reporters at Beijing airport. He said he saw no need for further discussions.

But analysts dismissed the delegate's comments as posturing by the North, which typically steps up its rhetoric or makes conflicting statements to try to confuse its opponents or win concessions. The same could be true of the ministry remarks.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman's comments on increasing North Korea's nuclear deterrent force were somewhat clearer, but did not state directly that the North already has nuclear weapons, as the US suspects.

A commentary in the official newspaper Minju Joson said every country had a right to defend itself and went a step further than the ministry by saying the North already has a nuclear force.

"The DPRK's nuclear deterrent force is a means for self-defense which it was compelled to build to cope with the situation in which the sovereignty of the country was seriously infringed upon due to the evermore undisguised US moves to stifle it with nukes," the newspaper said.

Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, the head of the US delegation, told reporters the talks had been productive but there was a long way to go before the crisis was defused.Also See Story:

China takes its diplomacy upstage at N Korea talks

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