SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Friday it wanted to ease U.S. concerns about the threat of its nuclear weapons program, but only if Washington promises not to invade and takes other conciliatory steps.
The appeal for a "nonaggression treaty" with the United States came as U.S. officials tried to muster international pressure on North Korea to drop its nuclear program, which was revealed last week.
Citing an unidentified Foreign Ministry official, the North's state-run news agency, KCNA, reported that the isolated country wanted to make a deal with the United States, which it has defined as its No. 1 enemy since the 1950-53 Korean War.
"The DPRK considers that it is a reasonable and realistic solution to the nuclear issue to conclude a nonaggression treaty between the DPRK and the U.S. if the grave situation of the Korean peninsula is to be bridged over," the English-language report said. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Such a deal should include a U.S. pledge to respect the sovereignty and right to economic development of North Korea, which would then be ready to "clear" the United States of its "security concerns," KCNA said.
But the North rejected the American position that talks on improving ties should occur only after the North dismantles its nuclear program.
"Nowadays, the U.S. and its followers assert that negotiations should be held after the DPRK puts down its arms. This is a very abnormal logic," KCNA quoted the North Korean official as saying.
"Then, how can the DPRK counter any attack with empty hands? Their assertion is little short of demanding the DPRK yield to pressure, which means death," he said.
U.S. and South Korean officials said they would study the proposal, though White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the U.S. position had not changed.
The North Korean official said Pyongyang "was entitled to possess not only nuclear weapon but any type of weapon more powerful than that so as to defend its sovereignty and right to existence."
The official also accused the United States of failing to fulfill terms of a 1994 accord under which the North agreed to suspend an earlier plutonium-based, nuclear weapons program. The North's second nuclear program, which involves uranium enrichment, violates international accords.
Under the so-called Agreed Framework in 1994, the North promised to abandon its nuclear program, and disavow similar nuclear activity, in return for the U.S.-led construction of two modern, light-water reactors and 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year until the reactors are completed.
North Korea has repeatedly accused the United States of being slow to build the reactors, which are years behind schedule.
On Friday, the North Korean official said Bush's description of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and Iraq, had amounted to a nullification of the Agreed Framework. The deal also calls for the establishment of diplomatic ties.
He also said that the United States was possibly unwilling to implement the deal, "calculating that the DPRK would collapse sooner or later."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who visited Pyongyang earlier this month, said the North Koreans admitted to having a second nuclear program and declared that the Agreed Framework was nullified.
However, North Korea is desperate for aid from the United States and its allies to revive its shattered economy, and has introduced economic reforms in recent months. Some South Korean officials had put a positive spin on its unusual admission of a nuclear weapons program, saying it was evidence of a desire to negotiate a "package" deal on its weapons programs in exchange for economic help.