North Korea reiterated Wednesday that it wants compensation if it ends efforts to build nuclear weapons. The statement, from North Korean cabinet minister Kim Ryong Song, came one day after Pyongyang said it had agreed to start new talks on February 25 to end the standoff over its nuclear programs.
Mr. Kim is North Korea's chief negotiator at ministerial talks with South Korea now underway in Seoul. The agenda for the talks includes the nuclear crisis as well as joint economic and cultural projects between the two governments.
Mr. Kim on Wednesday repeated Pyongyang's demand that the United States agree to "simultaneous action." The North wants Washington to give it a security guarantee, financial aid and other concessions while Pyongyang freezes its nuclear programs.
The Bush administration has already rejected the idea, saying that it wants Pyongyang to fully dismantle its nuclear programs before it will negotiate on aid or other issues with the impoverished Stalinist state.
Tuesday in Washington, Richard Boucher, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said financial compensation is not being discussed among the other nations attending the talks. "We're not talking with anybody about compensating North Korea," he says. "We're not - as we've made clear - we're not going to pay for something that's been promised and the past and then violated." Mr. Boucher was referring to North Korea's past international pledges to end its efforts to build nuclear bombs.
North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States took part in the first round of talks on the nuclear standoff last August in Beijing. But they failed to make much progress and it has taken months of intensive diplomatic effort to set the date for a new round.
Japanese media report that the new round of talks was made possible because the six nations decided to hold them even though they have been unable to agree on a draft statement to be adopted at the meeting.
The dispute was sparked in October of 2002, when U.S. officials say North Korea admitted it was running a program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Pyongyang later expelled United Nations weapons inspectors and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.