US says Korean demand for reactor no treat for accord

Bush administration on Tuesday brushed off a demand from North Korea for a light-water nuclear reactor, saying that the accord announced Monday in Beijing left it clear that the North must abandon its nuclear weapons program before such a matter can be discussed.

"I think we will not get hung up on this statement," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to a comment from North Korea that it would continue to insist on getting a reactor up front, as a price for agreeing to the Beijing deal. "We will stick to the text of the Beijing statement, and I believe we can make progress if everybody sticks to what was actually agreed to," Ms. Rice added at a news briefing with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Lavrov said that "we shouldn't rely on oral statements" from North Korea or others.

The Beijing agreement laid out a set of principles to guide discussions, which are scheduled to resume in November. The United States hailed the part of the accord in which North Korea agreed to abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" and submit to international inspections.

In return, the United States agreed to join its four partners - Russia, Japan, South Korea and China - in providing security guarantees and economic incentives over time, according to the principle of "commitment for commitment, action for action," reports the New York Times.

According to Seattle Times, after four rounds of discussions spanning several years, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and China said on Tuesday that they had agreed on a vaguely worded plan under which North Korea promised to dismantle its nuclear weapons in return for energy assistance, eventual U.S. and Japanese diplomatic recognition and a pledge by Washington that it would not attack the country.

The agreement also said the United States and other nations would discuss giving North Korea a light-water reactor for generating electricity, though it skirted the question of when. It said only that the possibility would be considered "at an appropriate time."

But the North Koreans made it clear today that they are in no mood to defer their reward.

In a blunt statement, North Korea's official KCNA news service warned that "the U.S. should not even dream of the issue of [North Korea's] dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing" a light-water reactor, which it called "a physical guarantee for confidence-building."

Should the United States insist on the dismantling of North Korea's atomic weapons before the provision of light-water reactors, the statement said, "there will be no change in the nuclear issue."

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