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North Korea Says It Will Not Join Nuclear Talks - 2004-08-16

North Korea says it will not attend working-level talks on its nuclear-weapons programs because of what it calls U.S. hostility.

North Korea says "hostile acts" by the United States have made it impossible for Pyongyang to attend the next round of preparatory meetings in Beijing aimed at resolving the stalemate over its nuclear weapons programs.

In a statement carried by the North Korean official news agency (KCNA), a foreign ministry official said these acts, which were not specified, prevent North Korea from freezing its nuclear facilities.

Analysts like Lee Myon-woo of Seoul's Sejong Institute have been expecting North Korea to delay the next round of talks until after the U.S. elections in November, in case President Bush is defeated and his successor is friendlier to Pyongyang.

"Their basic question has not been changed," he says. "They are kind of postponing until the end of this election."

The six nations that are party to the talks were to send working-level delegations to Beijing this week to prepare for a fourth round of negotiations.

Three rounds hosted by China have so far yielded little toward ending the dispute between Pyongyang, its neighbors and Washington.

North Korea has admitted to operating a plutonium-based nuclear-weapons program. Washington says the North also has a secret uranium-based project, which Pyongyang denies. Both programs would be in violation of international agreements signed by the North.

Separately, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is visiting Beijing, en route to North Korea to try to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.