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Saturday, February 12, 2005

US rejecting further talks with North Korea?

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here's the flash:

News -


US rejects one-on-one talks with North Korea

Sat February 12, 2005

WASHINGTON (AFP) -

The United States rejected North Korea's call for direct
negotiations outside the context of six-party talks aimed
at convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.

"There's plenty of opportunity for North Korea to speak
directly with us in the context of the six-party talks, and
there has been in the past, as well," [W.H.] spokesman
Scott McClellan told reporters.

At the same time, there were signs that Washington was
stepping up efforts to rally its six-party talk partners --
China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- in a united front
to drag North Korea back to the negotiating table. [?]

McClellan said that US Vice President Dick Cheney and
visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon had
"reaffirmed our shared view that North Korea must end
its nuclear weapons program" during a private meeting.

"All parties in the region recognize that they have a stake
in North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program," said
McClellan. "The six-party talks are the way to resolve this
matter in a peaceful and diplomatic way."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to meet with
Ban Monday, and aimed to discuss the situation with Chinese
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing by telephone in the coming days.

The two-year-old standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons
programs was also expected to figure atop the agenda when
Japan's defense minister and foreign minister visit Washington
February 19 [, 2005].

There have been three rounds of six-party talks since August
2003, but North Korea boycotted a fourth round in September
2004, leaving a US proposal for ending the two-year-old nuclear
standoff in the lurch.

And on Thursday, Pyongyang raised tensions and threw cold
water on diplomacy by suspending its participation in the talks
and claiming it possessed nuclear weapons.

A day later, however, the Stalinist regime said it could return
to the talks if Washington changed its "hostile" policy and agreed
to bilateral negotiations.

"If the United States wants to have direct dialogue with us,
we can accept that as a change in its hostile policy toward
North Korea," Han Song-Ryol, Pyongyang's deputy ambassador
to the United Nations, told South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper.

Any failure by Washington to have direct dialogue with North
Korea "means the United States would not recognize us but aims
to destroy our regime," Han said in the interview.

"North Korea should have no reason to believe that any nation
wants to attack them," said McClellan. "All of North Korea's
neighbors in the region recognize that this is a regional problem
and it requires a multilateral approach.

Pressed on why Washington did not want to hold direct talks
with Pyongyang, McClellan said North Korea had violated a
1994 deal meant to end its nuclear weapons programs.

"We've been down that road before," he said. "It was a bilateral
approach between the United States and North Korea. North
Korea violated that agreement and continued to pursue nuclear
weapons."

At the US State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said
that the United States was open to holding direct, face-to-face
negotiations with North Korea and without any other delegations
present, but only at the six-party talks.

"We've done that before. We'd do it again," he told reporters.