Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Ahead of multilateral talks now confirmed for Aug. 27-29, North Korea has reiterated its position that nothing short of a non-aggression pact with the U.S. will break the deadlock over its nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang also said that the notion of opening its nuclear facilities to outside inspection - as Iraq had done under international pressure - was "impossible and unthinkable."
Amid preparatory meetings for the six-sided talks planned for Beijing, Russian officials have floated the idea of a multilateral security pact that would include security guarantees for North Korea from Russia and China, to back up those from the U.S.
Russia's state news agency ITAR-Tass quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov as saying North Korea's demand for security guarantees were "absolutely logical."
Neither the U.S. nor North Korea is likely to approve of the idea suggested by Moscow, however.
The Bush administration has said throughout the 10-month standoff that it would not give in to "nuclear blackmail" by providing a written non-aggression pact.
For its part, Pyongyang has insisted all along that the dispute is between it and Washington, and that it is from the U.S. alone that it expects security guarantees.
The reclusive Communist state's foreign ministry reiterated this stance Wednesday, saying in a statement that the U.S. alone threatened peace on the Korean peninsula, and there was no need for other countries in the region to provide "collective" security guarantees, now or in the future.
If Washington refused to sign a non-aggression pact, the ministry said, North Korea would not give up its nuclear "deterrent" and the talks in Beijing would fail.
The agreement North Korea wants would provide each side with strict and legal guarantees against attack from the other, said the statement, which was released by the official KCNA news agency.
The talks in Beijing late this month will involve the U.S., North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
Laying the groundwork for that unprecedented meeting, North and South Korean officials have held separate meetings with the Russians in Moscow, while in Washington, senior State Department officials held talks Wednesday with Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday the administration had not proposed any economic incentives in return for Pyongyang ending its nuclear program, although it had long been concerned about the plight of North Korea's people.
He was reacting to published news reports, which said the U.S. was considering incentives for North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
As early as June 2001 - 16 months before the nuclear crisis erupted - President Bush spoke of a "bold approach" he was willing to take with North Korea: that is, if it addressed longstanding security concerns, the U.S. was prepared to take steps that would significantly improve the lives of the North Korean people.
After North Korea's covert nuclear activities came to light last October, Bush said his administration was no longer able to pursue that approach.
U.S. officials have said repeatedly since then that if North Korea addresses the concerns of the international community by eliminating its nuclear weapons program in a "verifiable and irreversible manner," the "bold approach" would be back on the table.
Bush, Powell and others have repeatedly stated that the U.S. has no plans to invade North Korea.
Earlier this month, Powell hinted that Congress could endorse some type of assurance that the U.S. has no hostile intent toward North Korea - an assurance that stopped short of a formal non-aggression pact.
The impasse began when the State Department announced last October that the North Koreans had admitted to the existence of a covert uranium-based nuclear weapons program that violated a 1994 agreement.
North Korea subsequently reactivated a mothballed nuclear plant, removed U.N. surveillance cameras, kicked out U.N. on-site inspectors, and withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Pyongyang in recent months has started making public references to an existing "nuclear deterrent" for the first time.
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