SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea on Wednesday accused the United States of intending to disarm the communist country and then "crush it to death with nuclear weapons" — two days after a landmark disarmament agreement that was expected to ease tensions.
North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for economic aid and security assurances at six-nation talks in Beijing on Monday — the first breakthrough in more than two years of negotiations.
However, the country's rhetoric since then has cast doubt on its commitment to the agreement and underscored its unpredictability, though none of its negotiating partners say they expect a breakdown in the disarmament talks, scheduled to continue in November.
"The ulterior intention of the United States talking about resolving the nuclear issue under the signboard of the six-party talks is as clear as daylight," the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
"In a word, it intends to disarm and crush us to death with nuclear weapons," the commentary said.
Washington has repeatedly denied North Korean allegations that it is planning an attack.
Just hours after this week's agreement among the two Koreas, United States, China, Japan and Russia, North Korea threw its pledge into question when it said on Tuesday it wouldn't dismantle its nuclear weapons program unless Washington agrees to supply light-water reactors (search) for civilian power — a condition Washington already had rejected.
South Korea, which has pursued closer economic and political contacts with the rival North in recent years, interpreted the North's latest demand as a negotiating tactic.
"It seems [North Korea] has started laying the groundwork in advance of the next round of negotiations," South Korean envoy Song Min-soon (search) said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The North demanded at the outset of six-party talks last week in Beijing that it be given a light-water reactor — a type less easily diverted for weapons use — in exchange for disarming. U.S. officials opposed the idea, maintaining North Korea could not be trusted with any nuclear program.
The issue was sidestepped in the agreement, with participants saying they would discuss it "at an appropriate time."
North Korea's negotiating partners made clear that the reactor could only be discussed after it carries out its pledge to rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search) and accepts inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (search).
Nevertheless, the North chose to press the reactor issue a day later — essentially introducing a major condition on its pledge to disarm.
The United States said this was "not the agreement they signed" and China, which has hosted all four rounds of the six-party negotiations since 2003, urged all parties to stick to the agreement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he didn't think "North Korea has any misunderstanding" about the statement.
Monday's agreement had drawn praise around the world and raised hopes of resolving a standoff that has raised concerns of an arms race in northeast Asia.