Seoul (AFP) August 13, 2000 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has warned the United States it must pay compensation if it wants to close down North Korea's missile program, which he insisted was purely for peaceful purposes.
Kim said his country was already selling "rockets" to Iran, and that his impoverished nation could earn billions of badly-needed dollars from the "rocket" program.
He suggested the Stalinist state might accept as compensation US launches of two or three North Korean satellites per year at a cost of around 900 million dollars.
The North Korean leader made the comments in meetings on Saturday with a delegation of South Korean media bosses, according to a statement by the delegation released after their return to South Korea on Sunday.
"I think the United States is now in trouble because they don't want to give us money but they want to stop our scientific research. It might be a big headache for them," the delegation quoted Kim as saying.
"I dont understand why they are suspicious of us. We are developing rockets for peaceful purposes but the United States is insisting we are trying to prepare for war with them," said Kim.
"How can we beat the United States even if we attack the United States with two or three intercontinental missiles," Kim asked, according to the statement.
Kim admitted that he had "caused a missile problem", which appeared to be a reference to North Korea's test over Japan of a Taepodong I missile in 1998.
The test caused caused deep concern in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington who rejected Pyongyang's insistence the device had merely put into orbit a satellite emitting revolutionary songs.
Kim urged Washington to respond to an offer through Russian President Vladimir Putin to close down North Korea's missile program in return for access to space rocket technology.
"The development of rockets may bring us billions of dollars ... Satellites are being launched for scientific purposes and will cost 900 million dollars if you fired two or three times a year," he noted, according to the statement.
"I told President Putin that we will not develop rockets if the United States launched a satellite for us," he told the media bosses.
Putin announced after talks with Kim on July 19 in Pyongyang that the North Korean leader would shut down his country's missile program if other nations would provide rocket boosters for space exploration.
The United States responded cautiously to the offer and insisted it needed more details.
But the Pentagon suggested Washington would consider launching North Korean satellites, but firmly rejected the idea of providing rocket boosters for North Korea to put its own satellites into space.
Washington has used the perceived missile threat from Pyongyang to justify its plans for a 60-billion-dollar National Missile Defense (NMD) scheme, which is bitterly opposed by Russia and China.
Kim also said North Korea could forge diplomatic relations with the United States as soon as the US State Department took it off its list of countries sponsoring terrorism, said the statement.
North Korea has this year begun emerging from decades of diplomatic isolation by forging diplomatic ties with Italy and Canada, and embarking on a peace initiative with Cold War rival South Korea.
Kim held an unprecedented summit with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in mid-June, and the two countries are holding a series of events to push forward reconciliation after half a century of hostility since the 1950-53 Korean War.