N.Korea says no nuclear talks until sanctions are lifted

North Korea said Monday it will not return to international nuclear disarmament negotiations unless sanctions are lifted, and reaffirmed its call for talks on a pact to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

Any nuclear talks held while sanctions remain in force would be akin to those between a "defendant" and a "judge", Pyongyang's foreign ministry said in its second statement on the issue in a week.

"The dignity of the DPRK (North Korea) will never allow this to happen," it said.

The North quit the long-running six-nation talks last April, a month before

staging a second nuclear test, which attracted tougher United Nations sanctions.

The communist state said Monday it "is not opposed to the six-party talks and has no ground whatsoever to delay them".

But it said they would collapse again without confidence-building measures such as talks on a peace treaty.

"There will be a starting point of confidence-building only if the parties concerned sit at a negotiating table for concluding a peace treaty," it said.

The war -- in which a US-led United Nations force supported the South and China the North -- ended only in an armistice, leaving the parties still technically at war.

The United States and South Korea have rejected the call for early discussions on a peace treaty. They say the North must first return to the six-party talks and show it is serious about scrapping its atomic programmes.

The US also rejects any lifting of sanctions before negotiations resume.

"We've made clear, going back several months, we're not going to pay North Korea for coming back to the six-party process," a State Department spokesman said last week.

South Korean ministers have voiced suspicions the talk of a peace pact is aiming at stalling any progress on nuclear disarmament.

They also suspect the North wants to exclude it from any peace talks and to deal solely with the United States.

In an angry statement Friday, the North's National Defence Commission threatened to break off all dialogue with South Korea unless it apologises for an alleged contingency plan to handle regime collapse in the communist state.

The commission, which is headed by leader Kim Jong-Il, denounced the alleged plan as a "crime" and said it would stage a "holy war" against those who drew it up.

North and South Korea will go ahead with scheduled talks this week, Seoul officials said Monday, despite threats by the North of a halt to dialogue and a possible attack.

The two-day talks on economic cooperation will begin Tuesday at a joint industrial estate just north of the border, the unification ministry said.

A spokeswoman told AFP the North on Monday afternoon approved the cross-border visit by Seoul's delegates.

Source: AFP

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