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N. Korea Rejects Key US Demand on Nuclear Standoff - 2003-12-01

North Korea has again rejected a key U.S. demand for ending the standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons efforts. The North said Monday that it will not dismantle its nuclear programs before it receives security guarantees from Washington.

North Korea lashed out at the United States Monday, saying that U.S. conditions for resolving the nuclear dispute amounted to "slavery." Through its official Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang said it would not tolerate a long-standing U.S. demand that it irreversibly and verifiably halt all nuclear weapons programs before Washington guarantees its security.

Instead, North Korea says the United States should accept that simultaneous action is the only way to end the 14-month-old crisis. It said both countries should "lay down arms at the same time." The commentary says this would mean the United States ending what Pyongyang calls its hostile policy, and at the same time, North Korea renouncing its nuclear program. Also at the same time, the commentary says the two countries should establish diplomatic ties.

No other details of North Korea's position were released, except for a warning that without this "package solution," the multi-party nuclear talks now being planned would fail.

The United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are trying to arrange a second round of talks with the Stalinist North. The first round was held in Beijing in August but ended inconclusively. Washington has offered to give a written security guarantee to North Korea after it disarms - but it rejects the North's demand for a security treaty.

North Korea also on Monday repeated demands that the United States compensate it for stopping construction of two nuclear reactors. Washington promised to build the reactors in 1994 to supply the impoverished North with energy, in return for Pyongyang abandoning efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Last month, the United States and its partners in the project - Japan, South Korea and the European Union - suspended the project for a year.

The nuclear crisis started in October 2002, when U.S. officials said North Korea acknowledged it had a nuclear weapons program, violating several international accords.