North Korea has announced it wants a non-aggression pact with the United States, a week after Washington revealed Pyongyang has breached international accords barring it from developing nuclear arms. North Korea is attaching conditions for talks on the issue.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry says Pyongyang is willing to negotiate with the United States over its covert nuclear weapons program. However, Pyongyang says first Washington must agree to a non-aggression pact.
In a statement, carried on North Korea's state radio Friday, the Foreign Ministry also laid out two other conditions for resolving the latest crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
In the broadcast monitored in Seoul, Pyongyang says it wants the United States to recognize its sovereignty and guarantee that Washington will not hinder economic development in the communist North.
Pyongyang has taken a number of steps in recent months to engage the rest of the world, in an effort to win aid for reforming its shattered centralized economy.
But Friday, North Korea gave no indication that it was willing to comply with U.S. demands that it scrap its nuclear program immediately. Pyongyang says it has the right to hold nuclear and other weapons if it feels its existence is threatened.
It accuses Washington of preparing for a preemptive nuclear attack against it, apparently a reference to statements by President Bush that the United States would pre-emptively attack countries believed to be preparing to attack the United States.
Washington accuses North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, of being part of an "axis of evil" nations intent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Just last week, Washington revealed that Pyongyang had admitted having a program to enrich uranium to build nuclear weapons, after being confronted with U.S. evidence. Friday's statement is Pyongyang's most definitive response yet to the report.
The program violates several international accords, including the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea promised to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for two nuclear energy reactors and annual deliveries of fuel oil.
In the broadcast Friday, Pyongyang says Washington has failed to abide by its own commitments under that agreement, pointing to delays in building the reactors.
The United States has already said the issue of North Korea dismantling the nuclear program is not negotiable, but it wants to use peaceful means to achieve this goal.
The leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States will be meeting starting Saturday in Mexico, to formulate a joint strategy towards the North. In addition, President Bush is expected to bring up the subject in his meeting Friday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.