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N. Korea Says It Will Consider US Offer of Security Agreement - 2003-10-25


North Korea now said it will consider a U.S. offer for a multilateral security agreement, in exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons. Pyongyang initially rejected the proposal.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pyongyang is ready to consider a new U.S. offer of multi-party security guarantees to break the stalemate over its nuclear weapons program.

But the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the unnamed official as saying the United States would have to have what it called a positive "intent to coexist" with the North, and not require unilateral action by one side.

North Korea said it has relayed this response through diplomatic channels in New York.

Speaking in Asia this week, President Bush said the United States and its allies are willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's demand for security promises.

"He [Kim Jong Il] wanted a security agreement, and we're willing to advance a multi-party security agreement, assuming that he is willing to abandon his nuclear weapons designs and programs," Mr. Bush said.

North Korea's initially rejected the proposal Tuesday, calling it "laughable" and again demanded a formal non-aggression pact with just the United States.

The turnaround comes as China - one of communist North Korea's only allies - is sending envoys to push Pyongyang back into talks with the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea. China hosted a first round of talks in August, but no progress was made.

North Korea Saturday said it could not commit to more talks, until it confirms that its conditions for considering the multilateral security arrangement have been accepted.

Tensions flared between North Korea and the United States a year ago, when Washington said Pyongyang had admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements.

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