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North Korea Rejects Libyan Example for Nuclear Disarmament - 2004-07-24

North Korea has dismissed a U.S. proposal that it follow the example of Libya and scrap its nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and diplomatic recognition. The dismissal comes days after a U.S. State Department official made the suggestion during a visit to the region.

A North Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by the country's official news agency Saturday as saying a U.S.-proposed arrangement to settle the dispute over the communist state's nuclear weapons program is "little worthy to be discussed."

The spokesman called the American proposal "nothing but a sham offer." He repeated Pyongyang's offer to freeze its nuclear facilities as a first step toward dismantling them, but only if Washington lifts economic sanctions, takes the North off its lists of sponsors of terrorism and provides energy aid.

On Wednesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton urged North Korea to learn from Libya, which recently agreed to abandon its weapons of mass destruction in return for normal relations with Washington and its allies.

Despite Saturday's rhetoric, there has been a flurry of activity this week, aimed at promoting engagement with Pyongyang.

Following Mr. Bolton's four-day trip to Seoul, he went on to Tokyo, while Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi spent two days in South Korea. The North Korea question was discussed in both cases.

Also in recent days, 80 South Korean trucks loaded with rice crossed the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas to deliver food aid to the North.

Separately, Washington on Friday pledged 50,000 tons of food aid to North Korea to be delivered this year.

Three rounds of talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions have been held in Beijing, but none has produced a breakthrough. The United States, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas took part.

Libya consummated years of efforts to repair ties with the West with an announcement in December that it was scrapping its nuclear and other unconventional arms programs. It also vowed not to trade arms with Iran, North Korea, Syria or other states accused of arms proliferation.

North Korea's initial reaction to Tripoli's move was a Foreign Ministry statement, dismissing hopes that it might emulate Libya as the "folly of imbeciles."