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US Rejects North Korean Demand for Non-Aggression Treaty - 2003-10-10

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is working on ideas for security assurances that might persuade North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. He spoke amid reports that six-way talks on the issue brokered by China may resume before the end of the year.

The United States has rejected North Korean demands for a military non-aggression pact with Washington. But Mr. Powell says the Bush administration is working on proposals for security assurances, short of a treaty, that might satisfy Pyongyang's concerns.

The secretary's comments, after a meeting here with U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, came amid media reports that North Korea is discussing with China a resumption in December of the six-party talks on the nuclear issue that began with an inconclusive round in Beijing in late August.

Mr. Powell said there is no date for new talks, but also suggested that informal contacts with the other participants including North Korea were underway on the key security issue.

"Nothing has been scheduled yet. We are in contact with our colleagues. We are also in contact with the North Koreans through different channels. And we have some ideas with respect to security assurances that we'll be presenting in due course," Mr. Powell said.

In a session later Friday with wire-service reporters, Mr. Powell said the envisaged commitment to North Korea's security would be public, in writing, and hopefully multilateral.

He said U.S. experts have been drafting sample agreements based on historical precedents and that the United States would begin, in the coming weeks, to discuss the language with friends and allies who would presumably join a security pledge.

The six-party meeting hosted by China in August involved South Korea, Japan and Russia along with the United States and North Korea.

North Korea has made security guarantees a pre-condition for discussion of ending the nuclear weapons program it acknowledged having revived a year ago.

The Bush administration had previously said it was willing to put verbal assurances of peaceful intent toward Pyongyang in writing, but that a non-aggression treaty was out of the question in part because it would never get Senate ratification.