US 'willing to rethink aid' if North Korea drops nuclear plans

By Ron Fournier
Wednesday 15 January 2003 01:00
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George Bush said yesterday he would reconsider a plan to give North Korea energy and food aid if the Communist regime dropped its nuclear weapons programme.

"We expect this issue to be resolved peacefully and we expect [North Korea] to disarm," the President said at the Oval Office. "If they so choose to do so, then I will reconsider whether or not we'll start the bold initiative that I talked to Secretary [Colin] Powell about." That initiative includes talks on food and energy aid.

The President spoke after James Kelly, assistant secretary of state, visited South Korea, where he suggestedNorth Korea could benefit from energy aid if it dismantled its programme. In the autumn, Mr Bush authorised General Powell to offer assistance, at which point Pyongyang acknowledged it was producing nuclear weapons in violation of a 1994 agreement with the US.

"People say, 'Are you willing to talk to North Korea?' Of course we are. But what this nation won't do is be blackmailed," Mr Bush said.

A statement from North Korea said it was running out of patience and threatened to exercise new "options". Mr Kelly assured South Korean officials before leaving for China that the US would stick to diplomacy for a settlement. China has offered to host talks between the two countries.

North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty last week. It has threatened to resume missile tests and begin reprocessing spent fuel rods to make bombs.

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