updated 2/19/2005 7:25:45 AM ET 2005-02-19T12:25:45

China’s official news agency cited an unnamed North Korean foreign ministry spokesman as saying on Saturday that Pyongyang is not ready to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks and does not want direct meeting with the United States.

“The DPRK has no justification to take bilateral talks ... on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula with the United States now,” Xinhua quoted the North Korean official as saying. DPRK is an acronym for the North’s official name — Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The spokesman said Pyongyang was unwilling to hold direct talks with Washington or join the six-party talks because of the “hostile” U.S. policy toward North Korea and its persistence in trying to topple North Korea’s regime, Xinhua said.

Restarting the six-country talks has taken on greater urgency since North Korea last week claimed it is a nuclear power. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

Chinese official heads to North Korea
The report came as a Chinese official headed to North Korea in an effort to bring the isolated regime back to disarmament talks.

Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party, was flying to Pyongyang. He was expected to try and persuade North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

Washington hopes Beijing — Pyongyang’s last major ally — will use its economic influence to get it to stop developing nuclear weapons. China is an indispensable source of fuel and trade for the impoverished North.

However, Beijing has insisted it has little influence over the Stalinist regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

China will likely use “patient diplomacy, plus some persuasion, plus some economic incentives, plus some political concessions from the United States and South Korea” to lure the North back to the six-country talks, Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, said earlier.

North Koreans: U.S. forced our hand
Meanwhile, Han Sung Ryol, the North’s ambassador to the United Nations, said his nation was forced to build nuclear weapons because of plans by Washington for a regime change and would never abandon them until the United States promises to end hostilities.

“We have burned our bridges behind us,” South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo quoted Han as saying in an interview published Saturday. “We have no other option but to have nuclear weapons as long as the Americans try to topple our system.”

Han said North Korea was willing to end the nuclear dispute through six-nation disarmament talks and make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the newspaper reported.

“There are two preconditions for our return to the six-party talks,” it quoted Han as saying. “The United States must promise us coexistence and noninterference, and it must make us believe that we can expect concrete results from these talks in making the Korean Peninsula nuclear weapons-free and ending the hostile U.S. policy toward us.”

Referring to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s reference to his country as an “outpost of tyranny,” Han said the comment “defines U.S. foreign policy.”

“If the United States withdraws its hostile policy, we will drop our anti-Americanism and befriend it. Then why would we need nuclear weapons?” he was quoted as saying.

In recent days, China has publicly and repeatedly called for “patience and calm” from all involved parties, and has said it did not believe sanctions would work against North Korea.

North Korea “has made a big mistake in developing these nuclear programs ... and we are to help them overcome this mistake,” U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said in Seoul after a visit to Beijing Thursday to meet with Chinese officials.

“But to help them, they are going to have to help themselves, and the first issue they need to do is coming to the table,” said Hill, who is also U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of six-nation talks since 2003. North Korea refused to attend a fourth round, scheduled for last September.

Tighter nuclear laws for S. Korea
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea on Friday said it will enact a new law to tighten controls over nuclear activities after secret experiments embarrassed the country last year.

South Korea is a signatory to international treaties that forbid the development of nuclear weapons. But the country’s nuclear activities came under scrutiny when it admitted its scientists conducted plutonium and uranium experiments in 1982 and 2000.

In November, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency criticized the country but refrained from taking tougher measures. Although plutonium and enriched uranium are two main elements of nuclear weapons, an IAEA report said there was no evidence the experiments were applied to an arms program.

But North Korea accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog and the United States of applying “double standards” and giving “tacit approval” to South Korea to pursue a weapons program.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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