North Korea demands U.S. treat it

North Korea is demanding that the United States recognize it as a de-facto nuclear power, accusing Washington of hypocrisy by overlooking Israel's suspected possession of atomic weapons.

The North's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Sunday said resolution of the standoff over its nuclear programs will be possible "only when the U.S. gives up the unfair and prejudiced double standards."

Communist North Korea demanded that Washington treat it as it does other countries which possess nuclear weapons but have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, a global agreement on controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.

Israel, which is not a signatory to the NPT, is believed to have begun a nuclear program in the 1950s, but has never denied or confirmed the widely held view that it possesses atomic bombs.

North Korea has long been suspected of possessing several nuclear weapons in addition to enough material to make several more. In February this year, it claimed it had built atomic weapons, although the claim could not be verified independently. Since 2003, North Korea has participated with the United States in six-nation talks on ending its nuclear programs.

The negotiations, which also include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, produced a breakthrough accord in their fourth round last month in which the North pledged to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid, security assurances and diplomatic recognition.

The nuclear talks are set to resume in Beijing next month, although no dates have been set. Prospects of progress are low after North Korea claimed it cannot disarm unless the United States provides it with a civilian nuclear reactor for power generation, a demand Washington has said is unacceptable, AP reports.

A. A.

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