N. Korea Firm On Nuke Demands

South Korean protesters burn a defaced banner of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, his father Kim Il Sung and North Korean flag in a rally against South Korean government supporting to the North Korea in Seoul Friday, Sept. 16, 2005.
AP
North Korea said Friday it will not give up its civilian nuclear program without concessions the United States is unlikely to grant, stalling progress in six-nation talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to dismantle its atomic weapons program.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier implied the United States will not continue the talks indefinitely, saying in a newspaper interview that the North had just a few days to show its willingness to disarm.

China proposed that North Korea retain the right to a civilian nuclear program after abandoning its weapons, according to Russia's chief envoy to the six-nation talks. That proposal contains "compromise wording which could satisfy both sides," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said, referring to the United States and North Korea.

But Pyongyang vowed anew not to give up its atomic program without getting concessions first.

"We will never give up our nuclear" program before the U.S. nuclear threat is removed from the Korean peninsula, North Korean spokesman Hyun Hak Bong told reporters, referring to Pyongyang's claims that it needs nuclear arms to defend itself.

"We will just do it our way. For us, we cannot stop our way of peaceful nuclear activities for one minute," Hyun said, reading from a written statement.

Hyun did not react directly to China's proposal, aimed at breaking a stalemate over Pyongyang's demand that it be given a nuclear reactor to generate power — a demand the United States rejects.

The North also blasted Washington's contention that it first give up all nuclear programs, saying the United States "should not even dream" about the North accepting such "brigandish" demands.

North Korea has demanded it be given a nuclear reactor for generating electricity before disarming. But Washington has insisted the North cannot be trusted with any nuclear program given its history of pursuing atomic bombs.

Hyun said Pyongyang would be willing to see the nuclear reactor co-managed and that it would be open to international inspections. It was unclear if those comments would make any difference to the U.S. side, which has branded the idea a "nonstarter."

All six countries at the talks are set to discuss the new draft with their capitals and reconvene Saturday afternoon to discuss their responses. The nations could either approve it or agree to take a recess, Alexeyev said. The talks also include Japan and South Korea.

"I keep my fingers crossed because still nothing is accepted," he said.

Earlier Friday, the chief U.S. envoy to the talks met again with his North Korean counterpart.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said at the start of the day that the six-nation talks were at a standstill over the North's demands for a reactor in exchange for its weapons programs. But he said later he had "good" discussions with the North's chief delegate, Kim Kye Gwan.

"At this point, I don't know where these will lead," Hill said of the meetings, speaking after a lunch with the South Korean and Japanese negotiators. "We are still in business."