North Korea has rejected as "laughable" a
new American offer for multilateral security guarantees if Pyongyang will scrap
its nuclear weapons program. But U.S. President George Bush downplayed the significance
of this in ultimately resolving the nuclear standoff.
North Korea said President Bush's offer is "laughable" and "not worth considering."
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday Pyongyang still
wants a formal non-aggression treaty with the United States as insurance it
will not be attacked.
Mr. Bush again ruled out such a treaty this week at the APEC summit in Bangkok.
But for the first time, he offered written security assurances from Washington
and its Asian partners, if North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons program.
In Indonesia Wednesday, Mr. Bush downplayed the rejection, saying the alliance
will "stay the course."
"There is going to be a series of these statements," said Mr. Bush. "I guess
they're trying to stand up to the five nations that are now united in convincing
North Korea to disarm."
Previously the Bush Administration had insisted North Korea first dismantle
its program before any concessions would be considered.
The United States wants Asian powers involved in any deal to make if harder
for North Korea to renege on its commitments.
Washington has little trust that North Korea will honor a bilateral agreement,
since its current nuclear drive violates a 1994 bilateral non-proliferation
accord with the United States.
Mr. Bush says it is now North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's turn to show he
"He wanted a security agreement and we're willing to advance a multi-party
security agreement, assuming that he is willing to abandon his nuclear weapos,
designs and programs," Mr. Bush said.
North Korea has still not committed to another round of talks with the United
States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. The first round was held in August
in Beijing and ended without any progress.
Japanese government Spokesman Yasuo Fukuda says Tokyo remains optimistic
and hopeful that fruitful discussion would take place if a second round of
talks takes place.
The standoff began last October, when U.S. officials said North Korea had
a secret nuclear weapons program under way in violation of international agreements.