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3RD LD: N. Korea rejects U.S. proposal for resolving nuclear row: sources.

BEIJING, July 27 Kyodo


North Korea's chief delegate to the six-party nuclear talks in Beijing on Wednesday rejected a U.S. proposal aimed at resolving the standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, calling it ''unreasonable,'' conference sources said.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a keynote speech on the second day of the fourth round of the multilateral talks in the Chinese capital that the U.S. proposal presented during the previous talks was unreasonable and lacks specifics about peaceful coexistence, the sources said.

In a bilateral meeting with the United States on Tuesday, North Korea expressed concern about having to make the first move toward abandoning its nuclear programs under the U.S. proposal.

''They don't want to have obligations ahead of other people's obligations,'' said top U.S. delegate Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Tuesday evening.

The U.S. proposal, presented in June 2004, calls for establishing a three-month preparatory period for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs after promising to abandon them.

During that period, North Korea would freeze its nuclear programs while non-U.S. parties to the talks -- China, South Korea, Japan and Russia -- would provide the North with fuel oil.

Steps such as lifting economic sanctions and providing multilateral security assurances would follow, but only after North Korea dismantled its nuclear programs in a ''complete, verifiable and irreversible'' manner.

During Wednesday's session, in which delegates of the six countries delivered keynote speeches, China's chief delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, said that all sides should ''work together with their utmost political courage'' to create a better future in the region, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Japan urged North Korea to abandon all its nuclear programs, including its alleged secret uranium enrichment program.

Japan's chief delegate, Kenichiro Sasae, called North Korea's nuclear activities a threat to the Northeast Asian region and a ''serious challenge'' to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, according to a summary of his keynote remarks distributed to reporters.

Japan ''strongly hopes (North Korea will) accept the complete dismantlement of all its nuclear programs, including the uranium enrichment program,'' said Sasae, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

Sasae also mentioned the need to solve North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, a major concern for Japan, in order to improve bilateral relations.

The comments come as signs of trouble emerged for the multilateral talks.

According to negotiation sources, North Korea denied having the secret uranium enrichment program, either for weapons or for peaceful purposes, in a bilateral meeting with the United States on Tuesday.

The uranium enrichment program is the source of the current nuclear row, which erupted when U.S. officials said in October 2002 that North Korea admitted to running such scheme.

North Korea has admitted to a plutonium program, and publicly announced in February that it possesses plutonium-based nuclear weapons, but has repeatedly denied having a uranium program.

North Korea's denial Tuesday of a uranium program even for peaceful purposes complicates a plan by countries such as the United States to make the North promise and act on the complete dismantlement of all programs, including the uranium one.

South Korea, meanwhile, has presented its own incentives, saying it is ready to begin directly supplying North Korea with 2,000 megawatts of electricity in 2008 if Pyongyang abandons its nuclear programs.

Japan's Sasae said in his keynote remarks that Japan welcomes South Korea's initiative.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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