Pyongyang must move first: U.S.
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- The United States is willing to help North Korea meet its energy needs if it gives up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but Pyongyang first must take "verifiable" and "irreversible" steps to meet international commitments, Washington says.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday the United States is not offering any deals to end the diplomatic standoff over North Korea's nuclear program and downplayed comments by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly as "nothing new."
"I think that it's clear that North Korea first knows what it needs to do. And we've always said that if North Korea comes into its international obligations, then they will stop isolating themselves," Fleischer said.
The United States and its allies in the region stopped shipments of heavy fuel oil to North Korea after U.S. officials said Pyongyang had admitted working to develop enriched uranium for use in a nuclear weapon.
"There'll be no fuel oil flowing, there'll be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow until there is verifiable dismantling of their nuclear weapons," Fleischer said.
In Moscow, North Korean Ambassador Pak Ui Chun suggested that his country could, under certain circumstances, reverse its decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Associated Press reports.
"The question of the possibility of our country's once again joining the treaty should be solved with consideration to the situation that developed after our country's withdrawal from the treaty," Pak said, according to the state-run channel Rossiya's translation of his comments at a news conference for Russian journalists.
Pak said Pyongyang might allow the United States to verify it doesn't have a nuclear weapons program "if the United States renounces its hostile policy of strangling (North Korea) and stops its nuclear blackmail in relation to our country."
But Pak said his country "will view the introduction of any sanctions as a declaration of war," according to Russia's Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies.
"That should be understood literally," he said.
The United States chief troubleshooter on Korea said Monday if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons program, there will be "opportunities" for the United States and others to solve North Korea's energy problems.
North Korea has said it is restarting its nuclear program becaused the United States has failed to follow through on agreements that would have provided North Korea with light water nuclear reactors.
"Once we can get beyond nuclear weapons, there may be opportunities with the U.S., with private investors and other countries, to help North Korea in the energy area," Kelly said.
Kelly said he was in South Korea to talk with Seoul leaders to try to determine how best to persuade North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program.
"We are, of course, willing to talk to North Korea about their response to the international community, particularly with respect to elimination of nuclear weapons, and we are going to be talking here with government people over how are some of the best ways to do that," he told reporters after meeting with President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.
In response to a question about pipelines possibly linking the South Korea with its energy-poor neighbor to the north, Kelly said that, once the nuclear problem is resolved, there may be opportunities to see how private investment can help North Korea resolve its energy needs.
No visit to North
Kelly arrived in Seoul on Sunday to discuss the standoff with North Korea over its suspected nuclear program. North Korea announced last week that it was withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Kelly told Roh that he did not feel that last week's meetings in Santa Fe between New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and North Korean diplomats had made any headway toward resolving the impasse.
At the conclusion of the discussions Saturday, Richardson had predicted the crisis would be resolved "through diplomacy and through dialogue."
Richardson said a North Korean official also assured him that his country does not intend to build nuclear weapons.
But a senior administration official in Washington expressed skepticism, saying the talks "did not address the issues of concern to the international community."
Roh was expected to urge Kelly to visit North Korea, too, but the U.S. diplomat had no plans to do so.
Last week, Kelly met with South Korean and Japanese officials in Washington as part of trilateral discussions on North Korea.
The United States claims that during an October meeting North Korean officials admitted to having a nuclear weapons program.
While Pyongyang says it has the right to have a nuclear weapons program, it has never publicly said that it has one.
'Axis of evil'
In December, North Korea announced it was going to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
Son Mun San, the Pyongyang's counselor for relations with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said Saturday North Korea would be ready to start the reactor in a few weeks, not months as the IAEA initially believed.
He said that Yongbyon would only be used to produce energy.
On December 31, North Korea kicked out IAEA inspectors stationed at the plant, leaving behind an unmonitored nuclear program in a nation the United States has dubbed part of an "axis of evil."
Son said North Korea needed the energy from the plant badly and was forced to reactivate the plant.
On Saturday, North Korea threatened to drop its self-imposed missile moratorium, which it implemented in 1999 after it conducted a missile test over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, proving it could strike any part of Japan's territory.
Some U.S. defense analysts say North Korea could roll out a missile capable of hitting the continental United States before 2015, although Pyongyang insists its program is purely for peaceful space research purposes.
-- CNN Correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon and Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-ae in Seoul contributed to this report