Pyongyang is watching President
Roh Moo-Hyun's visit to Washington

“We came to realise it was a mere fantasy to make a nuclear-free peninsula unless the US gave up its hostile policy,” Seoul's Yonhap news agency quoted North Korea’s KCNA agency as saying.

North and South Korea agreed in late 1991 to keep their countries free of nuclear weapons. The joint statement took effect in 1992.

North Korea's comments coincided with the visit of South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun to the United States for talks with US president George W Bush. The meetings are expected to focus on how to deal with the communist north’s nuclear weapons programme.

Roh has warned North Korea that developing nuclear weapons would lead Pyongyang down a “blind alley” and threaten stability throughout North East Asia.

The South Korean leader, who will meet Bush on Wednesday, said the North had to renounce its nuclear ambitions.

“Pyongyang must give up its nuclear project and come forward as a responsible member of the international community. When the North takes this route, the Republic of Korea and the international community will extend the necessary support and cooperation,” said Roh.

The nuclear tension came to a head last October when Washington said the North had admitted maintaining a nuclear programme in breach of a 1994 accord with the United States.

President Roh opposes sanctions or military strikes against the North. Although he believes the crisis cannot be resolved “overnight” he says he is confident that dialogue can resolve the issue.