North Korea seeks talks with US, non-aggression pact

North Korea said today it was willing to discuss its nuclear program with the United States and the International Atomic Energy…

North Korea said today it was willing to discuss its nuclear program with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but insisted a nonaggression pact was the only way to defuse the crisis.

The United States dismissed the call for a pact, noting that President (George W.) Bush had said on a visit to South Korea last year that Washington had no hostile intentions toward the Communist-run north.

State Department spokesman Mr Richard Boucher said what was important was whether Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear program and keep its agreements. He said: "The issue is not non-aggression. The issue is whether North Korea will verifiably dismantle this nuclear enrichment program."

In Beijing the reclusive Communist state's ambassador to China, Choe Jin-su, told a news conference the North's decision to reactivate its nuclear program was an act of self-defense and denounced Washington as the aggressor.


"Only when both teams sit together can there be a dialogue, and without dialogue, no one can talk about a peaceful solution," he said, criticizing Washington for labeling North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" and accusing the United States of aiming missiles at it.

"If the US legally assures us of security by concluding a nonaggression treaty, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula will be settled," he added.

Earlier, South Korea said it is to present a compromise designed to reduce tensions between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

President-elect of South Korea Mr Roh Moon-hyun hopes his proposal will solve the dispute between Mr Bush and Mr Kim before he takes office on February 25th.

Mr Roh "plans to present his own solution around the middle of this month," said Mr Lim Chae-jung, head of the presidential transition team. Both sides would have to make compromises, he added, because the dispute "affects the destiny of our people".

South Korea's Yonhapnews agency said one proposal being studied required North Korea publicly to give up its nuclear weapons programme and for Washington to guarantee the communist state's security "in the form of a letter or document".

South Korea plans to present its final proposal at meetings with the US and Japan to be held in Washington on Monday and Tuesday, Yonhapsaid.

In early December, North Korea decided to reactivate its plutonium-based nuclear programme. It since has removed monitoring seals and cameras from its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, expelled UN inspectors who visually monitored those facilities and signalled it may quit the global nuclear arms control treaty.