SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea will negotiate only with the United States to end the standoff over its nuclear program, an envoy from the North said Friday, rejecting the idea of multilateral talks on the dispute.
The envoy said only the United States was to blame for the dispute and flatly rejected the possibility of involving other countries in the talks.
"It is the United States that menaces the sovereignty of the DPRK and its right to existence," the North Korean envoy to China, Choe Jin Su, said at a news conference in Beijing, using the acronym of his country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Only the U.S. is responsible for doing away with the threat and able to do so."
The United States has sought to bring the issue before the United Nations, and has encouraged efforts by Russia, China and South Korea to help resolve the standoff.
"Here lies the sinister intention of the United States to evade its responsibilities for the blame and create international pressure upon our country," Choe said.
Choe repeated his government's demand for a nonaggression treaty with the United States. Washington has ruled out such a treaty but says it has no intention of attacking North Korea and could provide a written security guarantee.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said Friday that he hopes an emergency board meeting to deal with the North Korea crisis will take place Feb. 12 despite some disagreement among member states on when to hold such a meeting.
"I've already submitted the report to the board saying that North Korea is in noncompliance. So we need to get the board to certify that conclusion," he said.
"We obviously then have to report in accordance with our charter — our statute — to the Security Council," ElBaradei said at the Vienna airport upon arrival from New York.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog had previously suggested a Feb. 3 meeting, but South Korea wanted to delay the meeting to give North Korea time to change course.
A Security Council meeting could lead to sanctions against the North, though Pyongyang has said it would view sanctions as a declaration of war.
The dispute began in October when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted having a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement.
Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments to North Korea, which in turn expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors and pulled out of a global nuclear arms control treaty.
Deepening the crisis, North Korea on Thursday condemned President Bush for his State of the Union address, in which he called North Korea "an oppressive regime" ruling "a people living in fear and starvation."
"Bush has so far earned an ill fame as an emotional backbiter, but his recent address clearly proves that he is a shameless charlatan reversing black and white under the eyes of the world," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a report by the country's news agency KCNA.
"This policy speech is, in essence, an undisguised declaration of aggression to topple the DPRK system," said the spokesman, whose name was not identified in the report.
In Seoul, outgoing South Korean President Kim Dae-jung faced a payoff scandal over his crowning feat, a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 that helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kim was under pressure to clear up suspicions that he "bought" the 2000 inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The scandal is likely to fuel criticism that South Korea has pampered the North with economic aid and other concessions, while Seoul's key ally, the United States, says it won't allow the communist regime to use its nuclear ambitions as blackmail.
On Thursday, government auditors said Hyundai, a South Korean conglomerate with close ties to Kim's North Korea policy, had spent $186 million of taxpayer money for unclear purposes in the communist nation.
The Board of Audit and Inspection said Hyundai borrowed the money from a government-run bank shortly before the 2000 summit and used it for unspecified "North Korea-related projects."
Hyundai's business ventures in North Korea include a money-losing tourism project and a planned industrial park near the border with South Korea.
President Kim said Thursday that money was spent to promote peace and closer ties between the two Koreas.