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Positive Signs From NK Over Nuclear Issue Dialogue

Posted April. 13, 2003 22:01,   


North Korea said on Saturday that it plans to hold talks with the U.S. over its nuclear program regardless of format, and even if the U.S. changes its stance.

North Korea`s Central News Agency quoted North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman saying that if the United States was "ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue," North Korea would "not hold to any particular dialogue format."

The statement by North Korea suggests a departure from its previous insistence on two-way talks with the U.S. It has drawn people’s attention as North Korea becomes more likely to accept multilateral talks on the crisis over its nuclear program, as proposed by the international community including South Korea and the U.S.

The North Korean spokesman stressed that the key to the settlement of the crisis depends on what the real intentions are of the U.S., saying Pyongyang previously was keen on one-on-one talks with the U.S. to confirm whether it had the political will to abandon its hostile posture.

However, the North Korean spokesman said, "Because Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), there is no basis on which the nuclear issue should be discussed internationally and it cannot be solved in that manner. The U.N. Security Council meeting on April 9 shows that the nuclear issue is one only between North Korea and the U.S."

"The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman is seen as a positive development and we will wait and see what actions North Korea will take," a South Korean official said.

In an interview with the Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency, Philip Reeker, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said that the U.S. has interest in North Korea’s statement and would respond to the statement through appropriate diplomatic channels.

Young-Sik Kim spear@donga.com