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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Ditches Nuclear Treaty

UNITED NATIONS/SEOUL/BEIJING -- North Korea has no intention of returning to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but would agree to let the United States verify that it is not producing nuclear weapons if Washington drops its hostile policies, the country's UN ambassador said Friday.

Hours after the North Korean government announced its immediate withdrawal from the 1968 global treaty, Ambassador Pak Gil Yon told a news conference that the country will not develop nuclear weapons "at this moment."

He would not comment on whether North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear weapons and stressed that "future developments will entirely depend on the attitude of the United States."

Pak said North Korea plans to reactivate a nuclear reactor in the town of Yongbyon and complete construction of two other reactors, which will meet the country's energy and electricity demands "in the very near future." Activity at all three sites had been frozen under a 1994 energy deal with the United States that Pyongyang has canceled.

North Korea blamed "the U.S. vicious hostile policy" and an alleged "nuclear threat from the United States side" for its decision to immediately pull out of the treaty, which has been ratified by 188 countries and is considered the cornerstone of international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Pak reiterated North Korea's desire for the nuclear issue to be resolved through "peaceful negotiations" between Pyongyang and Washington, and for a nonaggression treaty with the United States. He said the U.S. decision to talk -- but not negotiate -- "is not a sincere attitude."

Pak made clear that his government wanted no more dealings with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors adherence to the treaty, known as the NPT.

When asked under what conditions North Korea would return to the treaty, the ambassador replied: "We never say any possibility of returning to the NPT." But a statement issued by Pyongyang held out the possibility of a future North Korea-U.S. agreement on nuclear verification.

North Korea followed its decision to withdraw from the NPT with a threat Saturday to end its moratorium on missile testing. Pyongyang stunned its neighbors in 1998 by firing a medium-range ballistic missile that arched over Japan. The following year, the North announced a self-imposed moratorium on missile flight tests to last until this year.

"The moratorium on our missile test firing will be of no exception, now that the United States has rendered all agreements reached between the United States and North Korea invalid," North Korean Ambassador to China Choe Jin-su said at a news conference.

Voicing "burning hatred" for the United States, more than 1 million people massed in the North Korean capital on Saturday to support their government's decision, the official Korean Central News Agency said. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Pyongyang's decision has triggered worldwide condemnation, cries of concern from neighbors and suggestions the issue be placed before the UN Security Council.

Tensions have been rising on the divided Korean Peninsula since Pyongyang admitted to Kelly in October it had been pursuing a nuclear arms program in violation of the 1994 agreement.

But South Korean commentators focused on the line in Friday's furious statement from Pyongyang that appeared to leave the door ajar to a diplomatic solution by inviting the United States to verify that the North did not possess nuclear weapons.

Diplomatic sources with close ties to Pyongyang said in Tokyo that North Korea would agree to scrap its weapons plans if Washington reaffirmed a 2000 joint communique that declared the two nations had "no hostile intention" toward each other.

South Korea, its capital within easy range of an estimated 11,000 North Korean artillery barrels lined up along the border, stressed the need for Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table.

The two Koreas have been technically at war for the past half-century because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armed truce instead of a permanent peace. North Korea came close to conflict with the United States in 1994 when it first threatened to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty amid suspicions about its nuclear program. (AP, Reuters)