SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) said Thursday the United States should first dismantle all potential nuclear threats in the region before it would discuss giving up its own nuclear program, and demanded to be treated on an equal basis in disarmament talks now that it has atomic weapons.
"Now that we have become a nuclear power, the six-party talks (search) should be disarmament talks where participants can solve the issue on an equal basis," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The unidentified spokesman added that the nuclear crisis could no longer be resolved through discussions on a potential "reward" in return for "freezing" the nuclear program.
"To realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula ... U.S. nuclear threats on the Korean Peninsula and its neighboring region should be removed," the spokesman said.
The United States has said it has removed all its nuclear arsenal from the Korean Peninsula, and it wasn't clear exactly what the spokesman was referring to.
The North is believed to have reprocessed enough nuclear material to make about a half-dozen bombs, but hasn't performed any known nuclear tests that would confirm the capability.
International efforts to resume nuclear talks gained urgency after the North claimed Feb. 10 that it had already developed nuclear weapons and would boycott the meetings indefinitely. The talks — also involving South Korea, China, Japan and Russia — have been stalled since June.