N. Korea Invites U.S. to Bilateral Talks on Arms

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 2, 2006

TOKYO, June 1 -- North Korea on Thursday invited Washington's chief delegate in nuclear disarmament talks to hold bilateral negotiations in Pyongyang, but only if the United States effectively demonstrates a commitment to working with the government of North Korea's ruler, Kim Jong Il.

In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the Foreign Ministry invited Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill to Pyongyang. But it called on Washington to first prove that it "has made a political decision to carry out" an agreement struck last year at six-nation talks in Beijing that offered unspecified economic and diplomatic rewards to North Korea in exchange for its nuclear disarmament.

Previously, the Bush administration has rejected bilateral talks with Pyongyang, insisting instead on the six-nation framework that also includes China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. North Korea has refused for months to return to those talks, citing U.S. "sanctions" imposed last year on financial institutions linked to Pyongyang's alleged counterfeiting operations. Thursday's statement reiterated the call to lift those financial restrictions.

"The United States sticks by its position," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

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