Pyongyang also accused Washington on Monday of "wasting time" by rejecting an offer to freeze its nuclear arms programme.

 

The claim was made in the country's ruling party newspaper – the Rodong Sinmun.

   

China has also weighed in on the side of its communist neighbour, urging the United States to be more flexible in the next round of six-party talks, aimed at ending the North Korean nuclear dispute, Xinhua news agency reported.

   

Previous rejection

 

The Whitehouse came in for particular criticism after rejecting the North's proposal last week for a "simultaneous package solution".

 

This proposal would have frozen the North's nuclear programme in exchange for energy aid.

   

"Its delaying tactics would only result in compelling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to steadily increase its nuclear deterrent force," said the newspaper in a report published by the official KCNA news agency.

   

Despite a flurry of shuttle diplomacy, expectations that North Korea would join South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia in talks on DPRK's nuclear programme this month have given way to plans to convene the meeting in January.

        

Proposal and counterproposal

 

Last week, South Korea, the United States and Japan conveyed their proposed wording for a resolution to end the 14-month-old dispute, under which both sides would set up a step-by-step process or "road map".

 

"As the US urges the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear weapons completely ... the latter has the same right to demand the US … give it complete ... security assurances"

The Rodong Sinmun,
North Korean government newspaper

Pyongyang - apparently responding to media reports about elements of that US-led plan - denounced it as "greatly disappointing" and published a counter-proposal.

 

It repeats demands for energy aid and diplomatic concessions in exchange for freezing its nuclear programme.

   

The Rodong Sinmun elaborated on the nuclear freeze proposal North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued on 9 December.

   

"If the US fully accepts the DPRK-proposed simultaneous package solution, though belatedly, the DPRK is ready to respond to it with the elimination of all its nuclear weapons," it said.

   

US rejection

 

The United States rejected the call for simultaneous actions, because it says the onus is on North Korea to disarm after violating a 1994 nuclear freeze agreement with a covert programme that was uncovered last year.

   

But the North Korean government newspaper also turned the tables on Washington's demand for a verifiable and irreversible end to Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

   

"As the US urges the DPRK to dismantle its nuclear weapons completely, verifiably and irreversibly, the latter has the same right to demand the US... give it complete, verifiable and irreversible security assurances," it said.

 

The statement was a guarded reference to the Bush administration's quest for a new generation of small nuclear bombs that the Pentagon might actually use in battle.