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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday rejected the idea of formally pledging not to attack North Korea.

On Monday, North Korea said unless Washington "legally committed itself to nonaggression," it would not give up its nuclear programs.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Bush administration is considering granting North Korea such formal guarantees.

But White House spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated long-standing American policy that "all options remain on the table."

"Our position remains the same: We continue to seek a diplomatic solution, working with the countries in the neighborhood," McClellan said. But, he added, "We've made it very clear that we will not give in to blackmail, we will not grant inducements for the North to live up to its obligations."

McClellan said the administration is not considering giving North Korea an assurance that the United States will not attack them.

"North Korea needs to irreversibly end its nuclear weapons program once and for all," McClellan said.

Monday, a high-ranking South Korean official predicted a possible breakthrough in the nuclear standoff, saying the United States, China and North Korea will hold talks in Beijing "quite soon."

The nations are "in the final stage of arranging a new meeting," said Ra Jong-il, President Roh Moo-hyun's national security adviser.

McClellan was noncommittal on when talks will resume.

"We remain in close consultation with China, Japan, South Korea on the next round and how we proceed on talks, so that North Korea will verifiably, irreversibly and completely eliminate its nuclear weapons program," McClellan said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted anew that the United States will insist on drawing North Korea's neighbors into negotiations.

"We'll not allow this to become, as some have suggested, once again a U.S.-North Korea problem," Powell said. "It is a problem between North Korea and its neighbors, who are most directly threatened and, frankly, who have considerable influence on North Korea."

He added: "North Korea has to understand that it has — there's no future in pursuing this kind of technology, this kind of weapon."

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