SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) on Monday rejected a U.S.-backed proposal on ending a crisis over its nuclear weapons development, and it warned that Washington's "strategy of delaying talks" would only prompt the communist government to accelerate the program.
The North's main state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said it was rejecting the U.S. offer because it required North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and did not promise "simultaneous" security assurances from the United States. North Korea has long sought a treaty promising that the United States will never invade.
"If the United States insists on us acting first, the six-nation talks would be nothing but an arena for empty talks," Rodong said, referring to proposed discussions between North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan (search) and China (search).
"If the United States wants a 'complete, verifiable and irrevocable' dismantling of our nuclear program, we also have the right to demand a 'complete, verifiable and irrevocable' security assurance from the United States."
The United States and its allies sent a blueprint for resolving the nuclear dispute to Pyongyang last week. Officials did not divulge details of the plan, but news reports said it broadly seeks the verifiable dismantling of the North's atomic weapons program along with security assurances for Pyongyang.
"The United States' strategy of delaying talks will only lead us to continue to strengthen our nuclear deterrent force," Rodong's commentary, carried by Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency, said.
The United States and its allies in the region want to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear programs through the six-nation talks. The first round, held in Beijing in August, ended without much progress.
North Korea's nuclear crisis began in October 2002, when U.S. officials said Pyongyang acknowledged having a nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements.
The United States and its allies then suspended oil shipments to the North. Pyongyang in turn expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors, withdrew from the global nuclear arms-control treaty and said it was building nuclear arms to defend itself from U.S. invasion.