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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 14:55 GMT
N Korea pleads against US sanctions
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
Pyongyang is offering to negotiate with the US
North Korea has called on the US not to impose economic sanctions against the impoverished state as punishment for its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

It follows a report by the South Korean opposition that Washington was considering a number of steps to pressure the Stalinist state into scrapping its programme.

North Korea knows what it needs to do

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, said North Korea was instead calling for a "frank discussion" with Washington on tackling its nuclear concerns.

But the White House on Sunday rejected a proposal by North Korea for talks.

"It's not a question of talking, it's a question of action," said spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"North Korea knows what it needs to do. It needs to dismantle its nuclear programme and honour its treaty obligations."

North Korea's plea came as the leaders of Japan, South Korea and China held talks at the Asean (Association of South-East Asian Nations) regional forum in Cambodia on how to tackle the threat presented by North Korea's alleged nuclear arsenal.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen later said the 13 nations were united in their call for a "nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsular."

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has urged the US not to impose sanctions on the North, warning it would risk a war on the Korean peninsula.

But members of the opposition Grand National Party, who have just returned from Washington, on Monday said Washington may be contemplating reducing aid and seeking economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Last week five US Congressmen urged President George Bush to abandon a 1994 agreement, under which it provides North Korea with fuel in exchange for a freeze on its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea, in a series of statements issued to the New York Times, last week said it was open to negotiation with the US.

Ambassador Han Song-ryol told the newspaper North Korea was willing to shut down the alleged enriched uranium programme and to allow international inspections of its uranium facilities.

"There must be a continuing dialogue. If both sides sit together, the matter can be resolved peacefully and quickly," he said.

During talks with a Japan last week, Pyongyang refused to give up the alleged weapons programme, but did say the nuclear issue could be resolved with US help.

Japan also failed to persuade North Korea to agree to the repatriation of five Japanese nationals kidnapped by the secretive state in the 1970s who are currently visiting Japan.

Tokyo says it will not send the five back to North Korea and is calling for the victims' North Korean families to be allowed to join them.

Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe on Sunday urged the visitors to be patient, acknowledging that the wait to be reunited with their children could be "prolonged".

  • Map shows range of Taepodong 1 missile, flown over Japan in 1998
  • Evidence that North Korea preparing flight test of Taepodong 2 with range of 4,000-6,000 km (could reach Alaska)
  • Thought to be developing Taepodong 3 with range of 8,000 km (could reach western US)

  • Nuclear tensions

    Inside North Korea

    Divided peninsula

    See also:

    31 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    30 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    23 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    25 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
    21 Oct 02 | Americas
    18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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