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North Korea Wants Big Concessions From Second-Term Bush

North Korea wants big concessions from second-term US President George W. Bush before it will discuss ending its nuclear weapons drive, a top Pyongyang envoy said in a report.”Such discussions are possible only when we see evidence of a substantial change in the US policy towards North Korea,” said Han Song-Ryol, deputy chief of North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, in an interview published here. The liberal Hankyoreh newspaper said the comments were North Korea’s first official reaction to the reelection of Republican Bush on Tuesday for a new four-year term. However, top Seoul officials cautioned that Han’s comments may not fully reflect Pyongyang’s policy towards the next US administration. North Korea boycotted six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States scheduled for September following three inconclusive earlier rounds. Pyongyang watchers said the regime may have been awaiting the outcome of the November 2 US poll. Since the nuclear standoff erupted in October 2002 North Korea has repeatedly demanded an end to Washington’s “hostile” policy towards the regime, as well as economic, political and other concessions. Han indicated that those demands were unchanged and his country was not thinking of returning to the talks unless the Bush administration was prepared to meet them. “We have never discussed with anyone the issue of holding six-party talks in November or at an early date,” he said. He warned that unless changes occurred, the standoff that has lasted more than two years would only get worse. “We have already witnessed the Bush administration’s North Korea policy,” he said. “There are suspicions there will be a shift in the policy of the second Bush administration.” Any such shift had better be towards a more accommodating policy on North Korea, he said. “Otherwise there will be an unpredictable situation,” he said. Full Story

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