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News :: International
While Moral Cripple Bush Chases Phantom WMD'S in the Middle East, North Korea KICKS AMERICA'S ASS
11 Feb 2005
While Moral Cripple Bush Chases Phantom WMD'S in the Middle East, North Korea KICKS AMERICA'S ASS




N. Korea Boasts Of Nuke Arsenal

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 10, 2005




(CBS/AP) North Korea boasted publicly for the first time Thursday that it has nuclear weapons and said it will stay away from disarmament talks, dramatically raising the stakes in the two-year-old nuclear dispute despite softened rhetoric from the United States aimed at luring the communist nation back to the negotiating table.

North Korea’s statement that it’s dropping out of the six-nation talks is a big setback for the administration, reports CBS News Reporter Charles Wolfson, covering Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's European trip. President Bush started his second term with a vow to end North Korea's nuclear program through talks.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever-more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement in English carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Previously, U.S. negotiators said North Korean officials claimed in private talks that they had nuclear weapons and might test one. The North's U.N. envoy also said last year the country had "weaponized" plutonium from its pool of 8,000 nuclear spent fuel rods.

But Thursday's statement was the first claim directly from North Korea's state media that it has a nuclear weapon, confirming the widely held beliefs of international experts that the country already has one or two atomic bombs. North Korea is not known to have performed any nuclear tests and kicked out U.N. inspectors in 2002, so there is no way to verify its claims.

The United States and South Korea, the North's main rivals, downplayed the revelation and urged the North to return to the six-nation disarmament talks that began in 2003 and also include China, Japan and Russia.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he expects Pyongyang can be brought back to the table.

Analysts suggested the move may be one of the impoverished state's negotiating tactics aimed at getting more compensation in exchange for giving up its nuclear aspirations.

Rice urged North Korea to return to negotiations.

"The world has given them a way out and we hope they will take that way out," she said. "The North Koreans have been told by the president of the United States that the United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea."

In a clear overture to North Korea to help foster the nuclear talks, President Bush refrained from direct criticism of the country in last week's State of the Union address. He mentioned the North only in a single sentence, saying Washington was "working closely with governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions."

Bush has previously branded the North part of an "axis of evil" that included Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Still, the North on Thursday seized on comments by Rice last month in which she labeled the North as one of the "outposts of tyranny" in the world.

"The U.S. disclosed its attempt to topple the political system in (North Korea) at any cost, threatening it with a nuclear stick," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said. "This compels us to take a measure to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by the people in (North Korea)."

South Korea urged the North to rejoin the talks, and said it maintains its previously stated estimate that Pyongyang has enough plutonium to build one or two nuclear bombs.

"We once again urge North Korea to rejoin the six-party talks without conditions so that it can discuss whatever differences it has with the United States and other participants," South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said.

Washington now must rely on its allies with more direct influence over the North — China and South Korea — to entice North Korea to negotiate.

"The question now is whether Washington is able to persuade and cajole Seoul and Beijing to bribe and pressure North Korea to resume the six-party talks," said Gary Samore of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "The U.S. has absolutely no influence, except through other countries."

Last week, Michael Green, the U.S. National Security Council's senior director for Asian affairs, traveled to the region to relay Bush's desire to restart the diplomatic process to the leaders of China, South Korea and Japan.

The North did leave an opening to return to the table, saying it would stay away until "we have recognized that there is justification for us to attend the talks and there are ample conditions and atmosphere to expect positive results." North Korea's economy has been ravished by famines and natural disasters, and it relies on outside aid to feed its people.

"Even if threats and declarations are made, it's in every party's interest to have negotiations," said Peter Beck, Seoul-based director of the North East Asia project for the International Crisis Group think tank. "Certainly this is a dark day for the negotiating process, but I don't think all is lost."

The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-enrichment program in violation of international treaties. Washington and its allies cut off free fuel oil shipments for the impoverished country under a 1994 deal with the United States made under the condition that North Korea halt nuclear weapons development.

North Korea retaliated by quitting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in early 2003 and restarting its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program, which had been frozen under the 1994 agreement.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/10/world/main672815.shtml

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