North Korea says it wants nuclear talks
SEOUL: A North Korean envoy said on Thursday his nation was ready for “both war and dialogue” following a report the North has taken a key step toward building nuclear bombs.
South Korea said Wednesday the communist North has reprocessed a small number of spent nuclear fuel rods. The procedure yields plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.
“Our basic position is that we want to resolve the (nuclear) issue peacefully,” negotiator Kim Ryong Song said Thursday before talks with South Korean delegates in Seoul. “But if outside forces ignore our position and try to use force, we will face them boldly and show our strength.” Kim urged cooperation between the South and North to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula and said no nation can force policies on Pyongyang - an allusion to the United States.
“Throughout history, our nation has been harassed by foreign invaders,” Kim said. “We will no longer succumb to foreign coercion and we are fully ready to launch counterattacks. We are ready for both war and dialogue.”
About 50 elderly South Koreans rallied outside the Seoul hotel hosting Thursday’s meeting, chanting “Stop North Korea’s nuclear program!” The protesters carried two mock North Korean missiles and burned two flags of the North.
North Korea has used harsh language for decades, and US and South Korean officials believe it’s designed to escalate tension and gain concessions. Kim’s South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, said a solution to the nuclear issue required the participation of the international community, not only cooperation between the two Koreas.
He said North Korea should agree to multilateral talks on how to stop the North’s nuclear development. The North has said it prefers talks with the United States, which it views as its main enemy. Shin Eun-sang, a South Korean spokesman, said Southern negotiators warned that North Korea “should not worsen the situation” and reminded it that it could win economic aid if it gives up its nuclear ambitions.
Northern officials insisted that the United States first stop its “hostile policy” toward the North, Shin said. Since April, North Korea has claimed that it had all but finished reprocessing the rods. Until now, both US and South Korean officials have expressed doubt about the North Korean claim, speculating that it might be a bluff to extract concessions. Reprocessing all the North’s 8,000 rods could yield enough plutonium for several atomic bombs, adding to the North’s suspected arsenal of one or two nuclear bombs, experts say.
The North Korean delegation arrived Wednesday and was scheduled to leave Saturday. —AP