WASHINGTON – North Korea (search) fears resuming international talks because of inevitable confrontation over nuclear weapons and peace on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.
"The North Koreans love to make excuses for why they can't come to the six-party talks," Rice told "Fox News Sunday" (search) from Jerusalem during a Middle East and European trip. "They don't like facing China and Russia and Japan and South Korea and the United States telling them in a concerted fashion that it's time to get rid of their weapons, their nuclear weapons."
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il (search), in a meeting Friday with Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, said his communist regime could rejoin the nuclear talks as early as next month if the United States respects North Korea as a partner.
North Korea announced earlier this year it possesses nuclear weapons, but Kim said Pyongyang would rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and allow inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency if the standoff was resolved.
The United States quickly dismissed the overture, saying Kim needed to set a date and make a more concrete commitment to nuclear negotiations.
Rice also defended a remark she made earlier this year in which she labeled North Korea one of the world's "outposts of tyranny."
"The point is that the North Koreans have been told by their neighbors and by the international community that the only way that they gain the respect that they say that they want, the only way that they gain some help with their terrible economic situation is to make a strategic choice to give up their nuclear weapons and come back to the six-party talks," she said.
North Korea pulled out of the treaty after the latest nuclear crisis erupted in late 2002, when U.S. officials accused the North of running a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of an agreement between the two countries.