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N. Korea States Willingness to Resolve Nuclear Standoff
Amy Bickers
VOA, Tokyo
02 Sep 2003, 11:04 UTC

Tempering its earlier harsh rhetoric, North Korea says it is willing to settle the standoff over its nuclear weapons program through dialogue. The softer approach comes as South Korea's foreign minister goes to Washington to discuss the dispute and as China suggests U.S. policy toward the North should be changed.

North Korea said Tuesday through its state-run media that it wants to resolve tensions with the United States through further dialogue. That is a shift from recent threats to boost its nuclear arsenal unless Washington signs a non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang.

The commentary also said North Korea will continue to take part in six-nation talks. China, the North's top ally, hosted a first round of talks last week to help reduce tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

But after the talks ended, North Korea called them pointless and dismissed the need for further meetings with the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

A Chinese official on Tuesday repeated a call for the United States to do more to resolve the nuclear issue. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said the North Korea issue is very complex, and he said that each party has its own stand. He said that China hopes all parties will maintain close relations and study each other's position to prepare for the next talks. He also said that all six countries at the talks have agreed to avoid doing anything to complicate the issue.

His comments follow a statement Monday from Wang Yi, China's chief delegate to the six-party talks, in which Mr. Wang called U.S. policy toward North Korea the main obstacle toward solving the nuclear tensions.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan is heading to Washington to discuss the outcome of the Beijing talks, which ended without concrete progress.

The United States insists that North Korean halt its efforts to build nuclear weapons before Washington will discuss economic aid and other issues. So far the impoverished communist state has refused to do so, saying it must first get a security guarantee from Washington.

North Korea says it has a nuclear deterrent force to protect itself from the United States.

The United States set off the 11-month dispute last year when it said North Korea had admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program, in violation of several international accords.