South Korea says it will never develop nuclear weapons; North Korea accuses U.S. of 'double standards'

Saturday, September 18th 2004, 10:49 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea insisted Saturday it will never develop nuclear weapons, but North Korea ruled out dismantling its weapons program or resuming negotiations unless U.S. drops its policy of ``double standards'' on the two countries' activities.

North Korea has seized on a recent South Korea acknowledgment of a plutonium-based nuclear experiment years ago, linking it with its own nuclear efforts and a tough stand in six-nation negotiations the United States is pushing to get North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

Seoul's revelations threatened to disrupt already troubled efforts to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear efforts.

``We declare again that we have no intention of developing or possessing nuclear weapons,'' South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Saturday. ``And we have never promoted a nuclear development for military purposes.''

But in a statement on its official news agency, KCNA, North Korea said the United States was ignoring the nuclear activities of its allies while trying to pressure the North to give up its nuclear capability.

It said the South intended to develop weapons with U.S. connivance.

``The continued disclosure of experiments in south Korea clearly proves that they were directed by the U.S. as they are aimed to develop nuclear weapons,'' KCNA said. ``South Korea's clandestine nuclear experiments go to prove that the U.S. double standards are a fundamental factor of the nuclear proliferation.''

``It is self-evident that the resumption of the talks can no longer be discussed unless the U.S. drops its hostile policy based on double standards toward (North Korea) and that the latter can never dismantle its nuclear deterrent force,'' KCNA said.

On Thursday, North Korea said it would not attend planned six-party talks on its nuclear activities until South Korea fully discloses the details of its secret atomic experiments.

South Korea acknowledged this month that it extracted a minute amount of plutonium in an experiment more than 20 years ago. That admission came shortly after it said it conducted a uranium-enrichment experiment four years ago. Plutonium and enriched uranium are two key ingredients of nuclear weapons.

South Korea said the experiments 20 years ago were purely scientific research, but acknowledged it should have revealed details to the U.N. nuclear agency.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave South Korea high marks for cooperating with his probe of the experiments. A team of IAEA inspectors is headed to Seoul to collect material for a report for the agency's board of governors when it next meets in November. They were to arrive Sunday.