North Korea demands resuming nuclear talks

North Korea proposed to China resume six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program Sept. 13.

But the communist North appeared to be sticking to its demand for a peaceful nuclear program, a key sticking point in the international disarmament talks that broke off for a recess last month.

"We will continue to conduct ceaseless and dynamic peaceful nuclear activities for the economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people's living," said a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Rodong Sinmun is the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.

"Our nuclear power facilities have been built on decades of belt-tightening of our people. Our people's sweat and blood is in those facilities. It is unimaginable for us to give this up without an alternative," the commentary said.

The commentary urged the United States "to admit our right to a peaceful nuclear program, and take a fair stance to resolve the nuclear crisis."

The North has already said it would return to talks the week of Sept. 12, after delaying the meeting by two weeks in anger over U.S.-South Korean military exercises and Washington's appointment of a special envoy on North Korea's human rights.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency and the Kukmin Daily reported Tuesday that the North told China it wants to resume the talks Sept. 13, and Beijing relayed this position to South Korea. Unidentified South Korean officials were cited in the reports.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry declined to confirm the reports. But Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of the country's negotiating team to the nuclear talks, said he "does not see any big problem" in resuming the talks during the week of Sept. 12 as scheduled.

Meanwhile, a Japanese official also said preparations were under way for the talks, but that no definite date has been set by host China.

"Adjustments are being made between the six countries for a start sometime next week, but I cannot tell you a definite date until there is an announcement from the Chinese government," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters in Tokyo.

The latest session of the six-party talks was the fourth round of nuclear talks including China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas.

The latest nuclear crisis with the North broke out in late 2002 after U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted to running a secret nuclear program in violation of an earlier deal to abandon its weapons ambitions, the AP reports.

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