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Rice: North Korea Making Excuses to Avoid Nuclear Talks

Condoleeza Rice gestuers during a press confernce in Amman
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says North Korea fears it will come under intense international pressure, if it returns to multi-lateral talks on its nuclear program.

North Korea says it will return to the talks only if it is shown respect by the United States.

But Secretary of State Rice dismisses the comments from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as the latest in a list of excuses.

"The North Koreans love to make excuses for why they can't come to the six-party talks," she said.

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Secretary Rice said North Korea just does not want to face, what she called an inevitable confrontation over its nuclear program.

"The reason why they don't want to come to the six-party talks is that they don't like facing China and Russia and Japan and South Korea and the United States, telling them in a concerted fashion that it is time to get rid of their nuclear weapons," explained Ms. Rice. "That is why they don't want to come to the six-party talks."

Speaking from Jerusalem shortly after discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Ms. Rice defended the tough talk coming from Washington regarding the North Korean regime. She was asked if statements, such as her reference to North Korea as an "outpost of tyranny" might be prompting Kim Jong Il's demand for respect.

"The point is that the North Koreans have been told by neighbors and by the international community that the only way they gain the respect that they say they want, the only way that they gain some help with their terrible economic situation is to make a strategic choice to give up their nuclear weapons, and to come to the six-party talks," said Ms. Rice.

The State Department said recently that Pyongyang had agreed to return to the talks, but had not set a date. Secretary Rice, said when North Korea is ready to set the date, the United States is ready to listen.

Last week, a senior South Korean official who met with the North Korean leader, said Kim Jong Il expressed willingness to return to the multi-national talks as soon as July, but that he wants the United States to respect Pyongyang "as a partner" in the talks.