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2009/07/27 18:03 KST
(2nd LD) N. Korea calls for new dialogue on its nuclear program

By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Monday demanded a new form of dialogue to resolve the stalemate over its nuclear program and reiterated it won't return to the six-party talks, in an apparent call on the United States to open bilateral contact.

   Washington has been unresponsive to Pyongyang's reported desire for one-on-one talks. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a media interview on Sunday, "We still want North Korea to come back to the negotiating table" that also involves South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

   South Korea said it is "not opposed" to bilateral dialogue between North Korea and the U.S., asserting Seoul and Washington have a close alliance.

   In a statement from its foreign ministry spokesman, North Korea said the six-party talks are now dead and should be replaced with a new form of dialogue.

   "There is a specific and reserved form of dialogue that can address the current situation," the unidentified spokesman said.

   The spokesman did not specify what the new form is, but North Korea is known to have long favored bilateral contact with the U.S., which can pull off deals in a shorter time than when dealing with all the other regional countries. After an ASEAN security forum urged Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks last week, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, suggested Pyongyang wants direct talks with Washington.

   "The six-party talks are gone forever," he told reporters in New York on Saturday. "(But) We are not against dialogue. We are not against any negotiation for the issues of common concern."

   Clinton did not take to the proposal.

   "We still want North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, to be part of an international effort that will lead to denuclearization," she said on an NBC television program, returning from the ASEAN forum.

   Clinton also described North Korea as "very isolated now." Recounting one of the ASEAN sessions in Thailand, she said, "They don't have any friends left" and "Everyone else just didn't even listen" as a North Korean representative presented criticisms of Washington.

   South Korea joined the U.S. call for six-party talks but noted it does not oppose a bilateral approach.

   "We hope that North Korea will return to the six-way talks at an early date," Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said at a press briefing. "We are not opposed to dialogue between North Korea and the U.S."

   With the latest statement, North Korea also said the U.S. and its allies are misleading the international community about why the six-party forum came to an end.

   "The six-party talks were consequently reduced to a platform for blocking even the DPRK's (North Korea) development of science and technology for peaceful purposes and curbing the normal progress of its economy," the spokesman said.

   North Korea withdrew from the talks in April after the U.N. Security Council condemned its long-range rocket launch with a resolution imposing sanctions. North Korea described the U.N. action as unfair, claiming the launch was to orbit a satellite and that other nations had not been punished for the same deed. South Korea, the U.S. and Japan viewed the launch as a disguised missile test.

   "This is the essence and the background of the current state of affairs, which the countries that are not parties to the six-party talks should understand," he said.

   The six-party talks began in 2003 to seek ways of terminating the North's nuclear weapons program. The last round in December ended with no progress amid disputes on how to verify the North's past nuclear activities.

   In a separate article, the North's party newspaper Rodong Sinmun rejected U.S. logic that North Korea's nuclear program should never be allowed as it would trigger a chain reaction in the region. The paper said the U.S. nuclear protection of South Korea and Japan is more likely to prompt a war.

   "Danger of war will increase only when one of the two hostile parties is armed with nuclear weapons or protected by a 'nuclear umbrella' while the other remains defenseless, having none of them. The DPRK's access to nukes helped keep a nuclear balance in Northeast Asia even in the least, thus making it possible to deter a war," the paper claimed.