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N. Korea ready for talks with US

Beijing, Jan. 3 (Reuters): North Korea said today it was willing to discuss its nuclear programme with the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but insisted a non-aggression pact was the only way to defuse the crisis.

The reclusive Communist state’s ambassador to China, Choe Jin-su, told a news conference the North’s decision to reactivate its nuclear programme was an act of self-defence and denounced Washington as the aggressor.

“Only when both teams sit together can there be a dialogue, and without dialogue, no one can talk about a peaceful solution,” he said, criticising Washington for labelling North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” and accusing the US of aiming missiles at it.

“If the US legally assures us of security by concluding a non-aggression treaty, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula will be settled,” he added.

Choe said talks with Washington about how to safeguard the framework governing its nuclear programme had been broken off.

“This issue should be negotiated in the future,” he said. “If time permits, we will discuss with the IAEA.”

Washington, which announced in October that the north had admitted to a secret nuclear weapons programme, has said it will not reward bad behaviour by holding talks with the north.

North Korea set off alarm bells around the world by starting to reactivate a nuclear complex, mothballed under a 1994 deal with Washington but capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.

Calling for direct talks with Washington and a non-aggression pact, it expelled UN inspectors monitoring the complex and said it would no longer abide by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Diplomatic efforts to bring the north into line gathered pace today with South Korea, which held talks with China yesterday, sending an envoy to Russia for weekend talks.

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