N. Koreans reject U.S. positions in summits

Statements raise doubts about disarmament talks


BEIJING - North Korea explicitly rejected yesterday the formula the United States has put forward as its bottom-line position in talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programs, raising doubts whether the fitful negotiations are making even limited progress.

The statement carried by Radio Pyongyang and monitored by news agencies in South Korea came just after a visit to North Korea by China's foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, and shortly before a visit to the region by Vice President Dick Cheney that is planned for next month. It used typically unrestrained language in accusing the United States of secretly planning a war.

"The present situation on the Korean peninsula remains dangerous owing to the reckless moves of the U.S. war hawks and their followers to unleash a war of aggression against the DPRK so that a nuclear war may break there anytime," it said, using the initials of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Li said this week that North Korea was ready to "push forward" with a third round of talks involving the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

But North Korea appears to be setting the stage for another inconclusive effort.

The statement rejected the U.S. demand for a "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling" of the country's nuclear programs. Bush administration officials have repeatedly stated that they will not sign any agreement with North Korea that does not use that wording. The administration also says that it will not provide aid or other benefits before North Korea scraps all its nuclear programs and allows rigorous inspections.

While North Korea often harshly criticizes what it views as an inflexible stance by the United States, yesterday's announcement seemed to go a step further. It put North Korea on record as saying that it could not accept the main goals President Bush and his negotiators have insisted on in the first two rounds of talks.

The statement rejected the U.S. formula point by point.

"Complete nuclear dismantling is a plot to overthrow the North's socialist system after stripping it of its nuclear deterrent," it said.

"Verifiable nuclear dismantling reflects a U.S. intention to spy on our military capabilities before starting a war," it also said.

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