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North Korea Threatens a Nuclear Test

June 25, 2004|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — North Korea told the United States on Thursday that it would test a nuclear weapon unless Washington accepted Pyongyang's proposal for a freeze on its atomic program, U.S. officials said.

They said the threat came during a two-hour meeting in Beijing between Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly and North Korean negotiators at a six-nation conference on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

The threat is not new, the U.S. officials said, but it raised doubts that progress would be made during the conference, which is scheduled to end today.

The United States has been insisting on complete nuclear disarmament.

The other participants in the talks -- China, South Korea, Japan and Russia -- agree that a denuclearized Korean peninsula is important.

There was no indication of when North Korea might test a weapon.

During a closed meeting Thursday, North Korea demanded massive energy aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze, the Kyodo News Service of Japan reported, citing diplomatic sources.

Japan and South Korea say they would consider giving the North fuel oil if it freezes its nuclear program as a step toward its eventual dismantlement.

Russian envoy Alexander Alexeyev said Moscow would be willing to help provide energy aid and security guarantees, according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency. The report did not say what conditions Russia might attach.

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