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U.S. security pledge for N. Korea

North Korea said last week it would ban Japan from any future round of talks.
North Korea said last week it would ban Japan from any future round of talks.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the U.S. has decided to offer security guarantees to North Korea as part of a deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Such an offer -- to be presented at the next round of six-party talks -- would be aimed at giving North Korea a security guarantee in writing while falling short of a fully-fledged treaty, which Pyongyang has demanded.

North Korea has repeatedly said it will not give up its weapons program until it has a guarantee the U.S. will not attack.

Until now the Bush administration has said it would not be blackmailed into any concessions and has demanded Pyongyang act first and dismantle its program.

Powell said the administration has been trying to come up with a form of words in writing to meet both North Korean and U.S. conditions

"We have some ideas with respect to security assurances which we will be presenting in due course," Powell told journalists on Friday, adding that his aides have been looking for historical precedents that could be applied to the current situation.

"My folks have come up with models that span 80 years," Powell said, without citing examples. "We will explore ideas with our friends in the weeks ahead."

Six-nation talks -- involving the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia held in Beijing in August -- failed to make any headway into the standoff or an agreement to hold another round of discussions.

"Nothing has been scheduled yet," Powell said of a new round of talks.

However, there were reports on Friday that North Korea had called for a new round of six-party talks in December.

'The one thing they asked for'

Pyongyang has spent much of the past year pushing forward with its weapons program, blaming its need for a nuclear arsenal on what it calls the United States' "hostile policy" towards it.

The Bush administration official said the U.S. decision on the security offer has crystallized in recent weeks through intensive inter-agency discussions following the Beijing talks, and is aimed at encouraging Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program in favor of better relations with the international community.

"The North Koreans made pretty clear they wanted this [the security assurances]," the official said. "They didn't talk that much about economic assistance. This is the one thing they asked for."

He said that the administration is reviewing old language from U.N. agreements and other security assurances the United States has offered to other countries.

Officials said the United States prefers that the North Korean security assurances be "multi-lateral," and that the White House is in the process of determining which of the six nations in the talks would be party to the guarantee.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly notified Japan and South Korea of the administration's decision during informal talks last week in Tokyo, the official said. Both Japan and South Korea have been pushing Washington to offer North Korea the guarantee.

U.S. officials say addressing North Korea's security concerns is part of a series of steps the United States is willing to take if Pyongyang is willing to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Other steps include easing of a trade embargo against North Korea and helping Pyongyang to secure much-needed loans from the International Monetary Fund.

-- CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.


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