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N. Korea shuns early meetings on nuke program

/ Source: The Associated Press

North Korea’s government said Monday it would not attend working meetings ahead of six-party talks on its nuclear program and blasted the United States for demands that the North fully disclose its nuclear activities.

The North’s Foreign Ministry said Washington was still showing hostile intentions toward the communist nation.

“It is clear that there would be nothing to expect even if the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) sits at the negotiating table with the U.S. under the present situation,” an unnamed ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The United States has said it would like to convene a working party meeting of participants in the six-nation talks as soon as possible to prepare for the next session, expected by the end of September. Along with the United States and North Korea, the talks include South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

Freeze offer tied to U.S. moves
At the latest talks in June, North Korea offered to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for energy, lifting of U.S. economic sanctions and removal from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. It said the freeze would be a step toward eventual dismantling of the program.

The U.S. wants the North to go further and disclose all nuclear activities, help dismantle facilities and allow outside monitoring. Under the plan, some benefits would be withheld to ensure the North cooperates.

On Monday, North Korea repeated claims that the United States was reserving the right to use force to disarm the country, although U.S. officials have said they have no intention of launching an invasion. Pyongyang also denied it was seeking to delay the nuclear talks to wait for results of the U.S. presidential election in November.

North Korea claimed the “hastily” proposed working talks ahead of the full negotiations indicated “that the U.S. is, in actuality, not interested in making the dialogue fruitful but only seeks to give an impression that it makes efforts to solve the issue.”

“A nuclear freeze is possible and it can lead to the dismantlement of the nuclear program only when the situation develops in the direction of the U.S. dropping hostile acts against the DPRK,” the ministry official said. “On the contrary, these acts are escalating. This prevents the DPRK from freezing its nuclear facilities, much less dismantling its nuclear program.

‘U.S. has destroyed ... the foundation for the talks’
“The U.S. has destroyed itself the foundation for the talks, making it impossible for the DPRK to go to the forthcoming meeting of the working group,” the official said.

The reclusive North Korean government in the past has regularly heightened its rhetoric ahead of key talks.

The nuclear dispute flared in 2002 when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted running a secret nuclear program in violation of international agreements.

On Sunday, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged North Korea to peacefully resolve its standoff over its nuclear ambitions and make a decision to disarm soon.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s intelligence agency warned of possible “retaliatory terror” from North Korea after the mass defection of some 460 people sparked angry condemnation from the communist state.

“Although there are no specific signs of terror, we issued the warnings as a precautionary measure,” an official at the National Intelligence Service said Monday on condition of anonymity.

South Koreans living or traveling in China and Southeast Asian countries, along with activists helping North Korean defectors abroad, need to pay “special attention” to their safety, the agency said in a brief statement issued last week.

North Korea lashed out at South Korea over last month’s mass defection, accusing Seoul of “planned kidnapping.”

It was by far the largest defection in what has become a steady stream in recent years of North Koreans fleeing repression and hunger in a country that has depended on outside help to feed its 22 million people since 1995.