North Korea has rejected a key U.S. demand for a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of its nuclear weapons programs. Pyongyang's restatement of its position follows a visit to the Stalinist state by the foreign minister of China, which has hosted international talks on the issue.

The statement was broadcast Saturday by North Korea's state-run radio. It likened U.S. demands for a complete dismantling of its nuclear weapons programs to a plot to undermine the communist state and strip it of its nuclear deterrent.

North Korea has said it would permit scrutiny and would dismantle its atomic facilities - which it insists are for peaceful purposes - only if Washington gives it economic aid and written non-aggression guarantees.

The Bush administration demands that North Korea first dismantle all its nuclear programs, contending that Pyongyang has broken international agreements not to develop nuclear arms.

The North's nuclear ambitions have been the focus of two rounds of six-nation talks, which ended last month in Beijing without a settlement. The six participants - the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia - have formed lower-level working groups to deal with specific aspects of the dispute.

Saturday's unyielding posture is typical of North Korean strategy during negotiations. The renewed hard-line stance comes just days after Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing conferred with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during a visit to Pyongyang.

Upon his return to Beijing, Mr. Li said China and North Korea had agreed to "push forward" toward a third round of six-country talks on the issue.