SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea rebuffed President Bush's proposal to give it multi-nation security assurances if it agrees to scrap its nuclear weapons program, saying the offer was "not worth considering.
Bush in turn brushed off North Korea's reaction on Wednesday, promising to "stay the course" in his efforts to muster international pressure on the communist country to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Bush's plan called for the United States and four other nations to give North Korea written assurances it won't be attacked if it promises to dismantle its nuclear program. But he ruled out a formal treaty that would limit U.S. military options.
North Korea, in a radio broadcast late Tuesday, reiterated that it would settle for nothing less than a formal nonaggression treaty that would legally bind the United States not to launch a pre-emptive strike against the isolated country.
"It is a laughing matter and is not worth considering," the state North Korean Central Broadcasting Station (search) said in a dispatch monitored by South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "We have demanded that the United States drop its hostile policy toward the [North] and sign a bilateral nonaggression treaty with us. We have not demanded some kind of security guarantee."
Bush made his proposal earlier this week at a summit of 21 Asia-Pacific leaders (search) in Bangkok, Thailand. It would commit the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to a no-invasion pledge, but he ruled out a formal treaty.
Washington said that issues, such as when to offer a security pledge and exactly what North Korea would have to do beforehand, were still being debated.
"There's going to be a series of these statements that I guess are trying to stand up to the five nations that are now united in convincing North Korea to disarm," Bush said, responding to the North Korean statement during a brief stop in Bali, Indonesia. "My only reaction is we'll continue to send a very clear message to the North Koreans. The good news is that there's other nations besides America sending the message."
North Korea fired at least one short-range missile off its east coast on Monday, rattling the gathering of Pacific Rim leaders and giving urgency to the yearlong nuclear crisis.
Bush's overture was a subtle yet significant shift in Washington's approach. The United States had earlier insisted that North Korea created the nuclear crisis and must move first to end it. Pyongyang paid no heed and began taking steps that could give the country several more nuclear bombs in addition to the one or two it already is believed to possess.
Earlier this month, North Korea announced it completed reprocessing its stash of 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods and began using plutonium extracted from them to build more atomic bombs. Last week, it indicated that it might test a bomb.
In August, talks between the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas in Beijing ended without agreement, even on when to hold another round of talks.
Pyongyang's main state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun (search) said Tuesday the August talks "clearly proved the U.S. true intention to totally disarm and destroy" North Korea.
A delegation of U.S. lawmakers hope to meet with North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il and discuss the crisis during a rare visit to Pyongyang next week.