|The Bush administration yesterday rejected North Korea's offer to scrap its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a long list of concessions from the United States, saying the proposal would not lead in the right direction.|
President Bush's top national security advisers were said to be divided over whether the outcome of last week's talks in Beijing, where the North Koreans made their offer, justified continuing the dialogue with Pyongyang.
"It is a proposal that is not going to take us in the direction we need to go," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"It's a proposal of the kind we have seen previously from them, and it's something that, because our other friends are interested in, we will study."
On Monday, Mr. Powell said the North Koreans "put forward a plan that would ultimately deal with their nuclear capability and their missile activities," but they "expect something considerable in return."
The list of demands, which a senior State Department official called so extensive as to defy a concise description, included resumption of free shipments of heavy fuel oil, security guarantees and the normalization of relations with the United States.
Meanwhile, after three days of difficult bilateral talks in Pyongyang, South Korea failed to extract a North Korean commitment to scrap its nuclear programs. But both sides agreed to pursue a wide range of cooperation projects.
The inter-Korean meeting, the first since South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took office in February, was troubled from the beginning on Sunday, with Pyongyang insisting Seoul had no part to play in the nuclear crisis.
"The nuclear issue is a matter to be discussed only between North Korea and the United States," North Korean chief negotiator Kim Ryong-song said in a statement.
The two Koreas, however, agreed to forge ahead with reconciliation and economic cooperation.
During the talks in Beijing, the first between the United States and North Korea in six months, Pyongyang acknowledged for the first time that it had nuclear weapons, Mr. Powell said.
He repeated a line the administration had not used for weeks: "We will not be intimidated by their claims and threats. As the president has said, we will not be blackmailed."
North Korea, meanwhile, said yesterday that future talks would be a waste of time if the United States continues to insist that Pyongyang completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program before discussing economic and diplomatic benefits.
"It is quite obvious that as long as the U.S. maintains such a stand, the two sides will only waste time no matter how frequently they negotiate, and such talks will not be of any help to the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula," said a statement in Pyongyang's official newspaper, Minju Joson.
"What is urgent for the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue is for the U.S. to put into practice its will to make a switch-over in its hostile policy toward [North Korea]," it said.
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Washington would "not reward North Korea for bad behavior."
"What we seek is North Korea's irrevocable and verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program," he told reporters. "We will not provide them with inducements for doing what they always said they were going to do." More @.....