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N. Korea Ready to Quit Nuclear Program in Exchange for US Non-Aggression Pact - 2003-11-16


A North Korean statement says the country is prepared to abandon its nuclear weapons program whenever the United States changes its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.

North Korea on Sunday said it is willing to give up its nuclear program "in practice" if Washington abandons what Pyongyang calls its hostile policy.

The statement says that resolving the stalemate over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs depends on whether Washington accepts Pyongyang's demand for "simultaneous actions." The statement, carried by North Korea's central news agency essentially repeated earlier vague statements.

North Korea has insisted that the United States sign a non-aggression pact and give Pyongyang economic aid. In exchange, North Korea has said it would be willing to abandon its nuclear program and open its nuclear facilities to inspections.

President George Bush has ruled out a pact, but has offered a written security assurance. In a policy shift, Pyongyang last month said it would consider the proposal.

Sunday's announcement comes as expectations build that a second round of multi-lateral talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program will take place. A first round of talks involving the United States, North Korea, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia ended in August without any progress.

North Korea has said it will participate in a new round, but despite a flurry of diplomacy in the past few weeks, including trips by Chinese officials to Pyongyang, no date for talks has been set.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly arrived in Tokyo on Sunday for strategy discussions with Japanese officials about the six-way talks. Japanese media say officials here are anxious about President Bush's offer of a security guarantee and want to hear from Mr. Kelly how it would affect the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

The United States last year said North Korea had admitted pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite international agreements to abandon such research.

Also Sunday, North Korea's ruling party newspaper called for South Koreans to escalate protests against the U.S. request for Seoul to send troops to Iraq. The Rodong Sinmun commentary was broadcast on the Voice of Korea from Pyongyang. "The United States should promptly discontinue its brigandish demand for troop dispatch to Iraq," announced the North Korean station.

The commentary called on the South Korean government to give up plans to send 3,000 troops to Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Seoul late Sunday for security consultations with South Korean officials. His agenda is expected to include Iraq and North Korea, as well plans for realigning U.S. forces in South Korea.

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