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N. Korea Rejects Bush's Offer of Security Assurances - 2003-10-22

North Korea has rejected President Bush's offer to provide multilateral security assurances if Pyongyang halts its nuclear weapons program. North Korea says the offer of a written multilateral security guarantee is "not worth considering."

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said late Tuesday that the proposal is "laughable." It said Pyongyang is only interested in a formal non-aggression treaty with the United States - as insurance it will not be attacked. Mr. Bush again ruled out such a treaty this week at the APEC summit in Bangkok. But for the first time, he offered written security assurances from Washington and its Asian partners in exchange for North Korea scrapping its nuclear weapons program.

Previously the Bush Administration had insisted, that since North Korea had caused the nuclear crisis by secretly developing weapons, it must make the first move to end the year-old standoff.

The United States wants North Korea to enter into a multilateral deal to end its nuclear program because it would be harder for Pyongyang to renege on its commitments to five countries. Washington has little trust that North Korea will honor a bilateral agreement, since its current nuclear drive violates a 1994 bilateral nuclear non-proliferation accord with the United States.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which ended Tuesday, all 21 leaders issued a statement to seek a peaceful resolution with North Korea and promised to address the security concerns of all parties involved in the crisis.

North Korea has still not committed to another round of talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The first round was held in August in Beijing and ended without any progress.

The standoff began last October, when U.S. officials said North Korea had a secret nuclear weapons program underway. Since then, North Korea has expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors and said it has reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods to make plutonium for nuclear bombs.