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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 11:31 GMT
N Korea 'may scrap nuclear plans'
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (left) with top generals
The North Korean regime maintains a huge army
North Korea has said it is ready to abandon its nuclear programme if the United States drops its "hostile policy" towards the communist state.

Pyongyang agreed last month to return to negotiations on its nuclear plans.

An official spokesman said North Korea was "willing to realistically abandon nuclear development at the phase when the US hostile policy ... is removed".

North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and to be working on building up its arsenal.

The North Korean foreign ministry statement, carried on the official KCNA news agency, also said Pyongyang wanted "the threat to us removed in practice".

North Korea has said it will consider US President George W Bush's offer of a written security guarantee from the United States and North Korea's neighbours.

Pyongyang had earlier demanded a non-aggression treaty with the US - an option ruled out by Washington.

North Korea has accused the US of planning a pre-emptive attack against it, after President George W Bush labelled it part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq.

Diplomatic moves

Officials from the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia held their first six-nation talks on the nuclear crisis in Beijing in August.

Since October 2002, North Korea has restarted a mothballed nuclear power station, thrown out inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and pulled out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly arrived in Japan on Sunday for talks on North Korea's nuclear programme.

A second round of six-nation talks is expected to take place by year's end, US, Japanese and South Korean officials say.

Japanese media reports speak of a possible summit between 10 and 20 December in Beijing.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in Seoul, for talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. He will also visit US troops on Tuesday before returning to Washington.

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