North Korea said Saturday it is willing to abandon its nuclear weapons programs, but it demanded a change in American policy as a California congressman critical of the communist state's human rights records visited Pyongyang.
The statement, which echoed the North's earlier stance, appeared to be timed for a visit by Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
"Our consistent stance is to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and resolve the problem through dialogue," said a spokesman of North Korea's Foreign Ministry. "If the United States really wants to resolve the nuclear problem through dialogue, it should show through action that it is giving up a hostile policy aimed at toppling our system, and take the road toward coexistence."
As he waited Saturday in Beijing to board a flight for Pyongyang, Lantos said he would discuss human rights issues and the North's nuclear program with officials of the secretive communist regime. He is expected to leave Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Since multinational talks began in 2003 to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, Pyongyang has cited a "hostile" U.S. policy as the key stumbling block. It demanded Washington provide a nonaggression treaty and compensation in return for ending its nuclear programs.
Three rounds of talks on the North's nuclear program involving the United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have produced no breakthroughs.
On Saturday, North Korea cited the North Korean Human Rights Act passed by the U.S. Congress in October as an example of U.S. hostility toward it. The legislation allows Washington to spend up to $24-million a year in humanitarian aid for North Koreans.