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N. Korea Rejects More Nuclear Talks Until South's Program is Probed - 2004-09-16

North Korea has again indicated that it does not plan to participate in talks about its nuclear weapons development until there is a full explanation about South Korea's recently disclosed atomic experiments.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the refusal to participate had been relayed to British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who visited Pyongyang earlier this week. South Korea recently admitted that it had conducted plutonium-based and uranium enrichment experiments, although it says they were not for weapons research. Just hours before the North Korean report, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters the other five nations in the talks - China, South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia - are attempting to get North Korea back to the negotiating table within the next few weeks.

"We all are making efforts so that we will be able to have six-party talks within this month," she said. "And I admit there are speculations that it is getting more and more difficult as days go on."

North Korea also denied suggestions that it is waiting to see who wins the U.S. presidential election in November before returning to the talks. The North's news agency said Pyongyang "does not care" whether President Bush is re-elected, or defeated by Democratic challenger John Kerry.

North Korea withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2002 and has admitted restarting a plutonium-based weapons program. U.S. officials say Pyongyang also admitted privately two years ago that it had a separate uranium-enrichment program, but the North denies this.

Meanwhile, foreign diplomats from eight countries have traveled to a remote part of North Korea where a mysterious nighttime explosion occurred last week.

South Korean media initially reported a mushroom cloud over the blast site, leading to fears that North Korea might have conducted a nuclear test. But no radiation was detected, and Pyongyang later said the explosion was part of a construction project for a hydroelectric dam.

Japan's NHK network reported that the diplomats had reached the blast site after several hours of air and overland travel.