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NK: Right to peaceful nuke program

Pyongyang, U.S. at odds as talks resume



North Korea
South Korea
Nuclear Policies

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- North Korea has reiterated its demands to maintain a civilian nuclear program, as delegates arrived in China for the latest round of international talks on Pyongyang's nuclear plans.

The United States and North Korea remain at odds over Pyongyang's weapons development.

The six-nation talks -- also including China, Russia, Japan and South Korea -- resumed Tuesday in the Chinese capital Beijing.

The head of the North Korean delegation, Kim Gye Kwan, told China's official Xinhua news agency that Pyongyang had a "right" to a peaceful nuclear program.

North Korea would not accept the U.S. blocking this right but there could be flexibility in other areas, he was quoted as saying Tuesday in Pyongyang, before leaving for the talks.

Christopher Hill, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, expressed no illusions as to what might come from the talks with North Korea, known officially as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"I know that my delegation is coming here to work," he said.

We know pretty precisely what the issues are. I hope the DPRK delegation has also done some homework and when they get here or when we talk to them we'll know where we are."

Pyongyang's position 'evolving'

During the last session of the talks, the parties met for 13 straight days, taking a recess in early August. This will be the fourth round of talks since 2003.

"I can't say really that there has been progress," Hill said.

"We certainly, I think, have a better idea of what their position is, although I must tell you that their position does seem to be evolving a little. So I am sort of reluctant to put too much emphasis in the discussions that have been carried on through the press."

One of the most contentious issues at the negotiations has been Washington's claim that North Korea has a secret uranium weapons program in addition to its declared plutonium one.

In a rare interview with CNN in the North Korean capital last month, North Korean envoy Kim -- also the vice foreign minister -- repeated Pyongyang's denial that it has a uranium-based program. But in a hint to the U.S. that North Korea is willing to compromise, he said the issue was open to negotiation.

"We don't have any uranium-based weapons program, but in the future if there is any kind of evidence that needs to be clarified we will be fully prepared to do so," he said.

Kim also said North Korea wants to pursue a peaceful nuclear program and was willing to adopt "strict supervision" of its nuclear facilities by bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog.

"As we resolve the nuclear issue we are willing to return to the NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty] and fully abide by IAEA safeguards."

Pyongyang ordered U.N. nuclear inspectors out of the country in December 2002, and pulled out of the NPT the following month.

"If someone is concerned with regard to our possible nuclear activities which could lead up to the manufacture of nuclear weapons out of the operations of a light-water nuclear reactor, then we can leave the operations under strict supervision," Kim said.

"The U.S. itself can have direct participation or the U.S. can pick a nation that they trust."

However, Kim reiterated that his country wanted to pursue a peaceful nuclear power program.

"This is a very appropriate policy in light of the economic situation of our country. That is why we cannot make a concession in this field," he said.

Kim said that Pyongyang was looking carefully at what appears to be the Bush administration's recent conciliatory tone and said he would bring a sincere and business-like attitude to the next round of talks.

But he warned that any U.S. attempt to promote a change of regime in North Korea was destined to fail.

CNN's Stan Grant contributed to this story.

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