SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea Wednesday rejected a proposal by South Korea’s president for a fresh deal to end its nuclear arms program in return for massive aid, which he has said was possibly Pyongyang’s last chance at survival.
In separate comments, the North Korean foreign ministry pledged to end the country’s nuclear ambitions but only on the condition that Washington stopped threatening its existence, repeating a long-standing justification for its atomic drive.
South Korea and the United States have been consulting on a new and comprehensive package of incentives for the North that would consolidate measures to end Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions as laid out in a stalled 2005 disarmament deal.
“The nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula should be settled between (North Korea) and the U.S. from every aspect as it is a product of the latter’s hostile policy toward the former,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
“(South Korean officials) are seriously mistaken if they calculate the DPRK (North Korea) would accept the ridiculous ‘proposal’ for ‘the normalization of relations’ with someone and for some sort of ‘economic aid.'”
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on the sidelines of a G20 summit last week that the existing process to disarm the reclusive state had been slow and was now defunct.
“In order for us to really accurately assess North Korea’s true intent, that is the reason I proposed a grand bargain, whereby we will really have to deal with this in a one-shot deal and to try to bring about a fundamental resolution,” Lee said.
North Korea has long said it was ready to drop its nuclear program if the United States ended what Pyongyang says is a hostile policy toward it. Washington has said it had no intention to attack the North.
“We will as before strive to build a world without nuclear arms and to realize a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons in association with the U.S. hostile policy against us,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in comments carried by
But the unnamed spokesman rejected a Security Council resolution adopted last week that called for global nuclear disarmament as “based on a double standard” that “did not reflect the hopes and will of the overall international community.”
The Security Council at a summit chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama unanimously approved a resolution for a nuclear-free world without naming either North Korea or Iran, which the West considers top atomic threats.
U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to sit down for talks that could lead to the resumption of six-country nuclear negotiations, but Washington has warned that the discussions would not be a separate negotiation channel.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said in Seoul Wednesday that U.S. envoys would be willing to consult directly with the North Koreans to help Pyongyang recommit to ending its nuclear program and that he was optimistic about such talks.
“They’ve certainly given some indication that they understand the value of re-engagement and we would like to see them take advantage of that,” he said after meeting South Korean officials.
Steinberg said he backed Lee’s proposal for a condensed package deal to resolve the crisis.
“What we all agree is that we’ve lived through the history before of partial measures and reversible measures. What we need is a comprehensive and definitive resolution of the nuclear question.”
Editing by Jonathan Hopfner and Dean Yates