N Korea Rebuffs South
On Nukes, Blames US

By Paul Eckert

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea curtly rebuffed South Korean efforts on Wednesday to prod the communist North to be more helpful in solving a nuclear crisis an said the solution of the year-old dispute was up to the United States.
South Korean media pool reports from inter-Korean ministerial talks in Pyongyang said the chief North Korean delegate quickly shut down discussion of the nuclear issue that has heightened tension in Asia for the past year.

"We have already revealed our principled position on the nuclear question to the whole world," North Korean senior cabinet councilor Kim Ryong-song was quoted as telling the South.

"I have nothing more to say on this, because the nuclear issue depends entirely on the U.S. attitude," he said in his keynote address to open the October 14-17 meeting in Pyongyang.

Kim's remarks were in response to the South Korean chief delegate, Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, who called on the North to take a "more forward-looking approach" toward diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue.

China, Russia, the two Koreas, Japan and the United States held an inconclusive first round of talks in Beijing in late August.

All sides pledged to avoid steps that would aggravate the year-old dispute. But North Korea has since continued to ratchet up pressure in the row with announcements it had moved forward in its drive to build nuclear weapons.


Jeong, who had intended to use this week's talks to urge the North Koreans to accept an early resumption of the six-country nuclear talks, told reporters last week that North Korea's recent actions had complicated the crisis resolution process.

Early this month, North Korea said it had redirected plutonium extracted from thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods to help enhance its deterrent force.

Pyongyang has made conflicting statements about whether it wants another round of talks, at one point saying a further meeting would be of no use, but then saying that Japan was not qualified to attend future negotiations.

North Korea has asserted for the past year that it faces an imminent threat of armed attack from the United States. It wants Washington to sign and ratify a non-aggression treaty before it will dismantle its banned nuclear arms programs.
In a move China hailed as a "flexible and positive gesture," Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week the United States had drafted new ideas on security assurances to offer to reclusive North Korea.

Powell said the United States envisaged a public written document, preferably signed by some of North Korea's neighbors, but not the formal non-aggression treaty that Pyongyang demands.

The North has yet to respond to Powell's plan.
This week's talks in the North Korean capital are the 12th ministerial meeting since a thaw in Korean ties began in 2000. North Korea has consistently insisted cabinet-level talks stay focused on South Korean economic help for the impoverished North.
Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.




This Site Served by TheHostPros