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North Korea brings sweeping demands to the nuclear talks

BEIJING—North Korea defiantly boasted of its nuclear status Monday and set out a sweeping list of conditions for disarmament, including lifting of all international sanctions.

What's more, in a go-for-broke negotiating strategy, the North Korean envoy at talks on ending his country's nuclear programs suggested that the United States and North Korea dismantle their nuclear weapons at the same time.

The list of demands by North Korea at the outset of revived six-nation talks exasperated some other envoys and dampened hopes that the talks might find solid footing after 13 months of deadlock.

There's a greater sense of urgency around the new round of talks, which began Monday in Beijing, after North Korea's test of a nuclear weapon Oct. 9. The U.N. Security Council condemned the test and imposed sanctions on the country.

The chief U.S. envoy to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, warned of "too many delays" in the negotiations involving China, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, the United States and Japan.

"The supply of our patience may have exceeded the international demand for that patience, and we should be a little less patient and pick up the pace and work faster," he said.

In an opening statement at the talks, chief North Korea envoy Kim Kye Gwan said his nation was a nuclear power on an equal footing with the United States.

A South Korean official, briefing later on condition of anonymity, said Kim had announced to negotiators that North Korea was "satisfied that we are possessing nuclear (weapons) whether other nations accept it or not."

The United States and the four other parties to the talks have said they don't accept North Korea's nuclear status and still seek to implement a September 2005 accord that calls for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.

That landmark accord, which North Korea signed, offers still-unspecified aid and security guarantees in exchange for Pyongyang accepting U.N. nuclear monitors and dismantling its nuclear-weapons programs.

The South Korean official said North Korea had presented "an exhaustive list of all its demands" in a "department store approach" to the negotiations.

Japan's envoy to the talks, Kenichiro Sasae, described North Korea's position at the talks as "far apart from that of ... the five other parties."

Hill didn't meet with his North Korean counterpart Monday, as originally scheduled, and a separate working group to discuss U.S. financial restrictions against Pyongyang was delayed until Tuesday because the North Korean delegation didn't arrive.

"We were prepared to talk to them about that today and we don't know where they were and why they're coming late," Hill said.

The United States has accused North Korea of counterfeiting U.S. currency and money laundering, and it imposed restrictions on a bank in Macau that North Korea used. North Korea said the restrictions were the reason it had boycotted the talks for more than a year.

Daniel Glaser, the deputy assistant treasury secretary for financial crimes, is to head the U.S. delegation at the working group on the financial restrictions.

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(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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