North Korea still wants talks with only the U.S.


Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 10:12 p.m.
SEOUL, South Korea - After visits by Australian and Russian diplomats to North Korea, and days before the arrival of South Korean and Indonesian envoys, North Korea warned Saturday that other countries "do not need to poke their nose into" its nuclear bomb program.
"The only way of solving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, peacefully and in a most fair way, is for the DPRK and the U.S. to hold direct and equal negotiations," the state news agency said, using the initials of North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The comments came as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Switzerland that talks would come "eventually," but added, "We will work out what the proper manner and form is."
"There is a strong desire on the part of the North Koreans to talk directly to us," Powell said in Zurich on Saturday on his way to the annual World Economic Forum of business and political leaders in Davos. "We believe that the problem that exists in North Korea is not a U.S.-DPRK problem. Other nations are involved."
Although South Korea made little apparent headway during three days of talks with North Korean envoys in Seoul in the past week, South Korea is sending two envoys to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, on Monday.
Hopeful of progress, South Korea asked the International Atomic Energy Agency on Saturday to postpone a Feb. 3 board meeting, which could send North Korea's case to the U.N. Security Council, where members could impose penalties on the North.
North Korea wants a survival guarantee, in the form of a nonaggression treaty with the United States.
"Looking at the fundamentals of the current situation, it cannot be resolved by a document such as a mere presidential letter," a North Korean Foreign Ministry official, Oh Sung Chul, was quoted as saying in Friday's issue of the Korean Chosun Sinbo newspaper in Japan.
Behind the diplomatic screens, there were glints Saturday of the military steel that lies in wait.
"North Korea in the past has said it can turn Tokyo into a sea of fire," Shigeru Ishiba, Japan's Defense Agency chief, told a Parliament committee in Tokyo on Saturday. "So we consider it possible if" North Korea "starts fueling a missile."
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi of Japan told the same committee that a pre-emptive strike against North Korean missile sites would be an act of self-defense. "If we see there is no alternative, striking bases - such as missile bases - would be within the legal framework of our country's self-defense," she said.
In North Korea, the state news media expressed outrage that the U.S. warship Kitty Hawk left its Japanese home port on Friday, reportedly for the body of water between Japan and Korea.
"The United States is buying time under the pretext of dialogue and negotiations," North Korean radio warned. "And in the meantime, it prepares for dangerous war of aggression on our republic, targeting the next phase of a war in Iraq."

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