Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 4 News List

N Korea rejects new US proposals as `unrealistic'

AFP , SEOUL

North Korea yesterday rejected as "unrealistic" a new US proposal aimed at defusing a 20-month standoff over its nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang, through an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman, dismissed a US plan to give North Korea three months to shut down and seal its nuclear weapons facilities in return for major economic and diplomatic rewards.

"The US offer to allow a `three-month preparatory period' for nuclear dismantlement was so unscientific and unrealistic that nobody could support it," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

But on a positive note, North Korea welcomed Washington's retreat from its earlier demand for the unconditional scrapping of the North's nuclear weapons as a first step towards resolving the standoff.

North Korea also welcomed Washington's decision at the last round of six-nation talks in Beijing last week to drop the term "CVID", referring to the US goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear facilities.

Washington has used the term as a mantra at previous rounds, much to the irritation of North Korean delegates, according to media reports here.

The statement, monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, was North Korea's first official reaction to last week's six-nation talks which ended without concrete progress.

Noting US flexibility at the talks, the statement said the United States had finally recognized the wisdom of North Korea's long-standing offer of a freeze in return for immediate rewards.

"It was noteworthy that the United States acknowledged the need to compensate the nuclear freeze while making what they call a progressive offer," the spokesman said.

He described as "fortunate" the US decision to refrain from using the term CVID at the latest talks.

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