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S. Korean Minister Expects N. Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks - 2003-09-04

South Korea's unification minister says North Korea will likely return to the negotiating table, despite threats to the contrary.

Unification minister Jeong Se-hyun says North Korea's declaration it would increase its nuclear capabilities and refuse to hold more discussions on the issue is a nothing more than a "pressure tactic" aimed getting the upper hand in future talks.

Mr. Jeong spoke to reporters in Seoul. He said that if Pyongyang really is not interested in talks, it would not need to keep saying so and making threats about its nuclear program.

On Wednesday North Korea's parliament approved the government's decision to avoid more negotiations and step up the country's nuclear weapons program.

Earlier, North Korea called last week's six-nation talks in Beijing "useless", saying that the United States had failed to drop what Pyongyang calls a "hostile" policy. But this week, Pyongyang also issued a statement saying it wants to resolve the nuclear dispute through dialogue.

The United States wants North Korea to end its nuclear program immediately. But Pyongyang wants Washington to sign a non-aggression pact first, a demand the United States has rejected.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said North Korea threatened to test a nuclear weapon during the six-way talks.

The dispute arose late last year, when the United States said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of its international promises to remain nuclear free.

Since then, North Korea has withdrawn from the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has restarted an old facility that can produce fuel for nuclear weapons.