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N. Korea pushes for meeting with U.S.

North Korea on Monday pressed the United States to meet for direct one-on-one talks to discuss the communist country's nuclear program, vowing to "go its own way" if Washington refuses to do so.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said in October his country could rejoin six-party nuclear talks, depending on the status of direct talks with the U.S. ((Korean Central News Agency/Associated Press))

North Korea on Monday pressed the United States to meet for direct one-on-one talks to discuss the communist country's nuclear program, vowing to "go its own way" if Washington refuses to do so.

The statement, made by a Foreign Ministry spokesman to Pyongyang's official news agency, said the one-on-one talks would be a prerequisite to North Korea sitting down for multilateral talks with South Korea, the U.S., China and other regional powers.

"As the DPRK [North Korea] was magnanimous enough to clarify the stand that it is possible to hold multilateral talks including the six-party talks, depending on the talks with the U.S., now is the U.S. turn," the spokesman said.

"If the U.S. is not ready to sit at a negotiating table with the DPRK, it will go its own way."

North Korea did not elaborate on what the threat to "go its own way" meant, but Western observers feared it would mean the resumption of nuclear tests and an expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

Talks halted earlier this year

North Korea agreed in 2007 to disable its nuclear facilities in exchange for aid and political concessions, but later abandoned the pact and halted talks in 2008.

Earlier this year the country also conducted a nuclear weapon test — its second test since 2006 — and conducted banned missile tests. It quit nuclear disarmament negotiations in April, and has since insisted on separate talks with the U.S. before returning to the table.

The administration of President Barack Obama has said talks might be possible, but that they should be part of the six-nation process aimed at ending the North's nuclear programs.

The veiled threat Monday comes after Ri Gun, North Korea's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, wrapped up a rare visit to the United States for informal talks with American officials.

Ri told reporters direct U.S.-North Korea talks are needed to settle "hostile relations" and give North Korea confidence in later talks.

With files from The Associated Press

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