NKorea will dismantle on conditions U.S. delivers light-water reactors

North Korea said it will not dismantle its nuclear weapons until the United States delivers light-water reactors, casting doubt on an agreement heralded as a breakthrough for peace.

North Korea had pledged Monday at six-nation talks in Beijing to give up its atomic weapons in return for energy and security guarantees. But it warned today that the offer is conditional on US concessions, Forbes reports.

”They are telling us to give up everything, but there is nothing we should give up first,” North Korea's envoy to the talks Kim Gye-gwan told reporters at Beijing airport before leaving for Pyongyang.

”The United States can prove a change to its hostile policy against the DPRK (North Korea) by providing light water reactors”, he added.

His comments echoed an earlier statement by North Korea's foreign ministry, which said the United States 'should not even dream' it will dismantle its nuclear arsenal until Washington provides the reactors.

US ally Japan immediately rejected the demand as 'not acceptable', while China said all sides should honor their 'solemn political commitment' to a joint document issued at the six-nation talks yesterday.

'The common statement was passed by the six parties, and I don't think that the DPRK had any misunderstanding about this common statement,' said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

The agreement had been cautiously welcomed by world leaders as an important step toward ending the three-year stand-off, with US President George W Bush calling it a 'positive sign'.

The North Korean comments appeared to be a response to Washington's portrayal of the deal as a breakthrough, and to set a bargaining position ahead of a new round of six-nation talks in November.

The on-and-off talks which opened in Aug 2003 brought together North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and hosts China.

In the statement of principle yesterday, North Korea said it would scrap its weapons, return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accept international inspectors in return for security guarantees, economic benefits and energy aid.

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