NKorea sees peace pact with US

SEOUL: North Korea called Wednesday for a peace pact with the United States, saying this was a "most reasonable and practical" way to end the long standoff over its nuclear weapons programme.

"A peace accord should be concluded between (North Korea) and the US if the nuclear issue on the peninsula is to be settled," the ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.

Such an accord is "one of the most reasonable and practical ways" to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, it said.

The newspaper urged Washington to roll back its "hostile" policy, insisting this policy had compelled Pyongyang to acquire a nuclear deterrent.

The commentary relayed by the North's official news agency followed its conditional offer last week to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

Leader Kim Jong-Il told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao his country was ready to return to the talks it quit in April, but only after direct negotiations with the United States to end "hostile relations".

Pyongyang staged its second atomic weapons test a month after quitting the talks.

The North has long wanted dialogue with the United States alone and has been lukewarm about the six-party format, which also includes South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

Washington has said it is open to bilateral talks but only to bring the North back to the multinational negotiations.

The United States headed a United Nations coalition which fought for South Korea in the 1950-53 war, in which China sent troops to assist the North. The conflict ended in an armistice and without a formal peace treaty. Related article: Bush on North Korea talks

The newspaper said the armistice had become useless because it could not prevent a second war or armed conflicts on the peninsula.

A six-nation deal reached in February 2007 envisages negotiations on a peace treaty among "directly related parties" along with denuclearisation.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Wednesday his country was ready for an "initial interaction" with the North "that would lead rapidly to a six-party resumption of talks". Related article: US urges talks

Campbell told reporters during a visit to Beijing that coordination between the five nations negotiating with the North was better than ever.

"The alignment in views about the six-party framework has been deeply reassuring for us," he added.