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US, Russia Dismiss North Korea's Nuclear Reactor Demand


The United States and Russia are not taking seriously North Korea's demand that it be given a light water reactor before dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday brushed aside a reporter's question about North Korea's demand for civilian nuclear reactors. Speaking at a United Nations news conference, Ms. Rice called the demand inappropriate, in the context of the six-party agreement signed this week in Beijing.

"I think we'll just stick with the text of Beijing agreement to which the North Koreans signed on, and the text of the agreement says we'll discuss a light water reactor at an appropriate time. There were several statements afterwards that make clear what that sequence is. This issue doesn't really arise," said Ms. Rice.

Secretary Rice noted that North Korea has dropped out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and rejected U.N. atomic energy agency safeguards. She suggested Pyongyang would have to agree to international restraints before its demand for a light water reactor would be seriously considered.

"So I think we will not get hung up on this statement, we will stick to the text of the Beijing statement, and I believe we can make progress if everybody sticks to what was actually agreed to," she added.

Secretary Rice made the comments with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at her side. Heard through an interpreter, Mr. Lavrov indicated he agreed with the U.S. assessment.

"I also think that we have to be guided by the text of the agreement, the text was carefully agreed up and it was the subject of very difficult compromises but it clearly sets forth the consistency of the steps that have to be taken so that we might talk about cooperation in the development of nuclear energy in North Korea. I think that we shouldn't rely on oral statements, which in fact could be interpreted differently," said Mr. Lavrov

Other parties to the Beijing agreement had similar reaction to Pyongyang's demand. Japan called it "unacceptable." China's foreign ministry urged all sides to keep to their commitments.

The chief U.S. negotiator at the six-party talks was quoted Tuesday as saying he was not surprised at the North Korean position. In an interview with news wire services, negotiator Christopher Hill said he still believes Pyongyang's pledge to dismantle its nuclear weapons program is on track.

The agreement signed Monday commits North Korea to give up the program in return for energy aid and security guarantees.

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