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North Korea demands nuke reactor from US
Updated: 2005-09-20 09:40

North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons until the United States provides civilian atomic reactors, Pyongyang said on Tuesday in a statement that significantly undermined a deal reached just a day earlier, Reuters reported.

Six countries, including the North and the United States, had agreed on Monday to a set of principles on dismantling the Pyongyang's nuclear programs in return for aid and recognizing its right to a civilian nuclear program.

Skeptics had said the deal was long on words, vague on timing and sequencing and short on action: the North's comments made clear just how short.

"The U.S. should not even dream of the issue of the DPRK's dismantlement of its nuclear deterrent before providing LWRs," said the North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, which was published by the official KCNA news agency.

DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. LWRs are light-water reactors, which experts say are more proliferation-resistant than other reactors.

North Korea's demand for light-water nuclear reactors before giving up its nuclear weapons program is unacceptable, Kyodo News agency quoted Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura as saying Tuesday.

North Korea's demand was expected and will not scupper a six-country deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear programmes in return for aid, South Korea said on Tuesday.

South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said on a radio programme the North's response to the agreement -- signed at talks in Beijing on Monday -- could be handled in diplomatic talks before a further round of negotiations.

The transcript of Chung's remarks were posted on MBC radio's Web site in Korean.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman said he could not immediately comment on the North Korean statement.

The statement said Pyongyang would not need a single nuclear weapon if relations with Washington were normalized. The North said in February it had nuclear weapons.

"What is most essential is, therefore, for the U.S. to provide LWRs to the DPRK as early as possible as evidence proving the former's substantial recognition of the latter's nuclear activity for a peaceful purpose," it said.

South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China -- the other players in the six-party talks -- expressed a willingness in Monday's agreement to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees in return for the North ditching its nuclear weapons programs. The timing was left vague.

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