North Korea said Monday it may insist
on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea unless Washington drops its
demand that Pyongyang dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
In a report issued Monday by North Korea's Central News Agency, the isolated
Communist state said it could soon slap new counter-demands on the United States.
The dispatch said Pyongyang may insist that U.S. troops leave South Korea
as a precondition for resolving the ongoing standoff over the North's nuclear
Washington bases 37,000 troops in South Korea to help protect it in case
the North attacks. U.S. troops have remained in South Korea since the Korean
War in the early 1950's.
Pyongyang also said Monday it might ask for a "verifiable and irreversible" security
guarantee from the United States, echoing Washington's frequent demand that
North Korea completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons
North Korea's latest comments come nine days after a second round of six-party
talks aimed at ending the North Korean nuclear crisis ended in Beijing without
The United States, Japan, Russia, China and the two Korea's took part in
that meeting as well as the first round, which ended inconclusively last August.
At the most recent meeting, all parties agreed to meet for a third time before
July, and also decided to set up a lower level working group to help the negotiation
process move forward.
North Korea has said it will halt its nuclear program in exchange for economic
aid and a security guarantee, but Bush administration officials have said repeatedly
that the North must permanently abandon its nuclear ambitions before it will
negotiate on other issues.
North Korea has frequently demanded that Washington remove its troops from
the Korean Peninsula, but it has never before linked this issue with the nuclear
The crisis started in October of 2002, when U.S. officials said North Korea
admitted it was secretly running a nuclear weapons program, in violation of