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Monday, February 21, 2005 - N. Korea 'reverses' on talks - Feb 21, 2005 - N. Korea 'reverses' on talks - Feb 21, 2005

N. Korea 'reverses' on talks

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il says his country is willing to resume talks with its neighbors and the United States if Washington "would show trustworthy sincerity and move (its stance)," Pyongyang's official news agency has announced.

"We will go to the negotiating table anytime if there are mature conditions for the six-party talks thanks to the concerted efforts of the parties concerned in the future," the state news agency KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

The agency said Pyongyang "would as ever stand for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and its position to seek a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue remains unchanged."

The six-party talks include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea announced on February 10 that it would withdraw from the talks and declared for the first time that it possessed nuclear weapons, blaming a hostile U.S. stance for the impasse.

But, in what appears to be a reversal, Pyongyang said Tuesday that its government "has never opposed the six-party talks but made every possible effort for their success."

The announcement came after a Chinese envoy visited Pyongyang Monday for talks related to the two-year-old standoff.

Wang Jiarui told Kim that Beijing wanted to ensure that Pyongyang's "reasonable concerns are given serious consideration," KCNA reported.

The six nations have held three rounds of talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards.

A fourth round of talks scheduled for September 2004 did not take place when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a "hostile" U.S. policy.

North Korea has said it wants security guarantees from the United States.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest twist in a series of heated accusations and statements over the past week and a half, which sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity.

On Saturday, U.S. and Japanese officials issued a joint statement calling North Korea's nuclear program "a direct threat to the peace and stability" of Asia.

"We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meetings.

"It is really time for the North Koreans to take seriously that concern" and return to six-party talks, she said.

The United States hoped Wang would impress upon North Korea that "there can be no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula," Rice added.

North Korea responded the following day by accusing Japan of aspiring to rule a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" begining with an invasion of Korea with the assistance of the United States. (U.S., Japan 'plotting invasion')

North and South Korea never signed a peace agreement after the 1953 armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, and the border between the two remains the most heavily fortified in the world.

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