- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BEIJING — North Korea took a tough stand yesterday during talks with the United States, insisting that Washington normalize relations and remove all atomic threats before it gives up nuclear weapons.

The United States stood by an aid-for-disarmament offer that the North rejects as unfair.

South Korea’s envoy characterized it as a “useful talk, where it became clear what [the sides] had in common and what [the] differences were.”

“It remains to be seen over time whether prospects are bright or not,” Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon told reporters.

But the stances suggested that negotiators have difficult work ahead despite vows to make progress in talks that resumed Tuesday after a 13-month gap.

North Korea said the United States must abandon plans to topple its communist regime and instead establish mechanisms for peaceful coexistence, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, citing a source close to the meetings in the Chinese capital.

The comments reportedly were made by the head of the North Korean delegation, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, at the start of the second day of talks on the North’s nuclear program. Participants in the talks are the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Washington has said it recognizes North Korea’s sovereignty and has no intention of attacking the country.

Pyongyang accused Washington of hostility after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January called North Korea one of the world’s “outposts of tyranny.”

The North also raised the issue of what it claims is a U.S. nuclear arsenal that could be used against the North, a senior American official said.

Both Washington and Seoul deny any U.S. nuclear weapons are in the South, and South Korea earlier raised the prospect of opening South Korean and U.S. bases for some form of verification by the North.

The United States “stood behind” a 2004 offer to give the North a security guarantee and economic and energy aid in return for a nuclear-free peninsula, the official said.

The U.S. offer requires the North to dismantle its nuclear program and allow monitoring before any aid is given.

North Korea complained that the proposal was unrealistic, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are still in progress. The North says the proposal requires too much before any U.S. aid is awarded.

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