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Should we be worrying?

SEOUL, South Korea  — North Korea (search) defiantly announced to the world Thursday that is does in fact have nuclear weapons and said it's not interested in restarting disarmament talks anytime soon since.

The communist nation argues it needs protection against what it considers an increasingly hostile United States.

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N. Korea Says It Has Manufactured Nuclear Weapons

Pyongyang to Withdraw Indefinitely From Six-Nation Disarmament Talks

By Anthony Faiola

Washington Post Foreign Service

Thursday, February 10, 2005; 9:35 AM

TOKYO Feb. 10 -- North Korea on Thursday declared itself a de facto nuclear power, claiming in its strongest terms to date that it had "manufactured nuclear weapons" to defend itself from the United States and saying it would withdraw indefinitely from international disarmament talks.

Since withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and ejecting weapons inspectors in a dispute with the Bush administration in late 2002, North Korea has used less specific language, both publicly and privately, to describe the development of what it has dubbed a "nuclear deterrent." But on Thursday, an official North Korean statement employed wording that analysts and several Asian diplomats saw as a virtual declaration that it has become a nuclear power. "In response to the Bush administration's increasingly hostile policy toward North Korea, we . . . have manufactured nuclear weapons for self-defense," the government said in official statement through the its Korean Central News Agency.

Without evidence of a nuclear test, considered difficult given North Korea's small size and broad border with its chief benefactor, China, North Korea's assertion remains just that -- an assertion. The statement, however, seemed in concert with U.S. intelligence officials who have privately estimated that North Korea has developed a cache of at least a couple of nuclear devices and has reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods into plutonium -- potentially enough to make as many as six more.

The declaration, nonetheless, raised the stakes for a quick diplomatic solution to the North Korea nuclear issue while posing new hurdles for the Bush administration as it tries to bring Pyongyang back to disarmament talks that have been stalled since last June. In recent days, administration officials have briefed Asian allies on evidence that North Korea sold nuclear material to Libya in 2001, demonstrating the urgency in bringing Pyongyang into compliance.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is winding up her weeklong diplomatic debut abroad, warned North Korea to reconsider its choice to break off disarmament talks or face deepening isolation from the rest of the world and greater suffering for its people.

In Luxembourg, Rice outlined stark alternatives if the regime of Kim Jong Il does not abandon its "unfortunate" boycott. "With our deterrent capability on the Korean peninsula . . . the United States and its allies can deal with any potential threat from North Korea. And North Korea, I think, understands that. But we are trying to give the North Koreans a different path," Rice said at a press conference with three European Union leaders.

Rice told reporters that she hopes the United States and its allies engaged in the six-party talks -- China, Russia, South Korea and Japan -- will confer again soon to resolve the standoff.

But in response to North Korea's declaration today that it has a nuclear program, Rice said the United States has assumed Pyongyang had a nuclear capability since the mid-1990s.

South Korea and Japan on Thursday called on Pyongyang to return to the disarmament talks and raised the possibility of international sanctions if it does not.

Asian diplomats had hoped that Bush's relatively conciliatory State of the Union Speech last month would do the trick. After calling North Korea a member of the "Axis of Evil" with Iran and Iraq three years ago, Bush refrained from reiterating a hard-line approach against North Korea, instead emphasizing the need for international cooperation to solve the crisis.

But in its Thursday statement, North Korea latched on to Rice's statements during her confirmation hearings, suggesting that her identification of North Korea as "an outpost of tyranny" meant U.S. policy -- demanding unilateral disarmament without economic and diplomatic incentives up front -- had not changed. North Korea outlined a rationale not only for indefinitely boycotting the six-party disarmament talks but also for increasing its nuclear arsenal.

"The Bush administration termed the DPRK" -- North Korea's official name -- "an 'outpost of tyranny,' " North Korea said in Thursday's statement. "This deprived the DPRK of any justification to participate in the six-party talks" and "compels us to take a measure to bolster our nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by the people in the DPRK."

North Korea was seen by analysts as withholding an earlier declaration as a nuclear power in part as a bargaining chip in the talks. Many believe it had delayed a return to the table to see if Bush was re-elected, and then, what the new administration's policy might be.

Analysts concluded that North Korea's statement Thursday meant it no longer saw anything to lose given that the Bush administration, with a largely similar cast, is now entrenched for four more years.

"They are using this to try to force the U.S. to deal with them now as a nuclear-possessing country, and to escalate their demands," said Pyong Jin Il, a leading Tokyo-based North Korea expert and editor of the Korea Report. "They are going to try to force the U.S. to deal with it on an equal stand as China, Russia, India and Pakistan. They are asking the U.S. and the rest of the world to negotiate with them as a nuclear power."

Some officials on Thursday called the statement more of the North's typical brinksmanship designed to win the upper hand in negotiations. Several officials also compared it to previous missives -- particularly a statement to the press made by North Korea's vice foreign minister, Choe Su Hon, last September at the United Nations, where he said his government had "weaponized" nuclear material. North Korea has also privately told U.S. officials that it has nuclear weapons and has threatened to stage a test.

But other Asian diplomats and analysts saw the North Korean statement as significant because of its clarity, specificity and source -- an official government statement. A vital unknown factor, however, remains whether North Korea has mastered the technology to deliver such devices through its arsenal of short- and mid-range ballistic missiles. Even so, "the concern is that they have them at all," said one Asian diplomat. "They could be mounted on ships or planes and be delivered in primitive but potentially effective way."

South Korea said Thursday the North's decision to stay away from talks was "seriously regrettable." Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu Hyung said, "We again declare our stance that we will never tolerate North Korea possessing nuclear weapons."

Officials in Tokyo, as in Washington, have been looking to China -- which provides up to 80 percent of North Korea's energy and has on occasion cut off oil supplies to force it into submission -- to pressure Pyongyang. A Chinese official was reported to be planning a mission to North Korea this month, leaving Asian diplomats upbeat that at least lower level disarmament talks would soon take place. Shigeru Ishiba, Japan's influential former defense minister and a legislator in its ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said it is time "for China to do more."

If China cannot get North Korea back to the bargaining table in short order, he said, international sanctions may now be in order. "Because the situation has now come this far, I personally believe it is time that we bring this issue before the [united Nation] Security Council," he said. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, under pressure at home to impose bilateral sanction against North Korea, immediately called on Pyongyang to return to the stalled nuclear talks. "It would be better if we resumed talks soon," he told the Kyodo News service. "Just as we have until now, we will cooperate with the other countries toward this end."

A broader fear for U.S. officials is proliferation by North Korea. Besides its publicly professed plutonium program, North Korea is believed to have a second uranium enrichment program.

The standoff with North Korea began after Pyongyang privately admitted to the uranium program in Sept. 2002, U.S. officials say, a violation of North Korea's earlier agreement with the Clinton administration to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. It touched off a tense two years in which North Korea kicked out weapons inspectors and announced the reprocessing of its spent plutonium rods.

But it has steadfastly denied admitting to the second uranium program, which again became the focus of attention last week after U.S. officials reportedly told China, South Korea and Japan that North Korea provided Libya with nearly two tons of uranium that could be enriched to nuclear-bomb-grade level in 2001. Libya turned the giant cake of uranium hexafluoride over to the United States last year as part of its agreement to give up its program of weapons of mass destruction.

"I think certainly you have to be concerned about the potential for sales to terrorist groups, I think North Korea would sell to anyone with hard currency," Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, told reporters in Tokyo Wednesday morning before North Korea's announcement. "It's bad enough that they would sell missile technology or chemical or biological weapons capability, but the nuclear capabilities are obviously the most dangerous of all."

Staff writer Robin Wright in Luxembourg and special correspondent Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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Didn't Clinton try to have 1 on1 talks with N. Korea, but instead they started bulding the nuclear weapons. Now they want the 1 on 1 talks again?

Now their reason is for self-defense.

It seems the 1 on 1 talks are only used when they see fit.

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Who should really be worried is South Korea, and to a lesser extent, China. Kim Jong Il with a nuclear weapon is a scary thought. Anything is likely to set him off, and I think he may be just mentally unstable enough to use one. Just my .02

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Who should really be worried is South Korea, and to a lesser extent, China.  Kim Jong Il with a nuclear weapon is a scary thought.  Anything is likely to set him off, and I think he may be just mentally unstable enough to use one.  Just my .02


You mean like a PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE!

I agree, but what are we to do, let him die of old age? I really don't have an answer either unless the UN takes action.

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Updated: 7:25 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2005BEIJING - China’s official news agency cited an unnamed North Korean foreign ministry spokesman as saying on Saturday that Pyongyang is not ready to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks and does not want direct meeting with the United States.

“The DPRK has no justification to take bilateral talks ... on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula with the United States now,” Xinhua quoted the North Korean official as saying. DPRK is an acronym for the North’s official name — Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The spokesman said Pyongyang was unwilling to hold direct talks with Washington or join the six-party talks because of the “hostile” U.S. policy toward North Korea and its persistence in trying to topple North Korea’s regime, Xinhua said.

Restarting the six-country talks has taken on greater urgency since North Korea last week claimed it is a nuclear power. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

Chinese official heads to North Korea

The report came as a Chinese official headed to North Korea in an effort to bring the isolated regime back to disarmament talks.

Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party, was flying to Pyongyang. He was expected to try and persuade North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

Washington hopes Beijing — Pyongyang’s last major ally — will use its economic influence to get it to stop developing nuclear weapons. China is an indispensable source of fuel and trade for the impoverished North.

However, Beijing has insisted it has little influence over the Stalinist regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

China will likely use “patient diplomacy, plus some persuasion, plus some economic incentives, plus some political concessions from the United States and South Korea” to lure the North back to the six-country talks, Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, said earlier.

North Koreans: U.S. forced our hand

Meanwhile, Han Sung Ryol, the North’s ambassador to the United Nations, said his nation was forced to build nuclear weapons because of plans by Washington for a regime change and would never abandon them until the United States promises to end hostilities.

“We have burned our bridges behind us,” South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo quoted Han as saying in an interview published Saturday. “We have no other option but to have nuclear weapons as long as the Americans try to topple our system.”

Han said North Korea was willing to end the nuclear dispute through six-nation disarmament talks and make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the newspaper reported.

“There are two preconditions for our return to the six-party talks,” it quoted Han as saying. “The United States must promise us coexistence and noninterference, and it must make us believe that we can expect concrete results from these talks in making the Korean Peninsula nuclear weapons-free and ending the hostile U.S. policy toward us.”

Referring to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s reference to his country as an “outpost of tyranny,” Han said the comment “defines U.S. foreign policy.”

“If the United States withdraws its hostile policy, we will drop our anti-Americanism and befriend it. Then why would we need nuclear weapons?” he was quoted as saying.

In recent days, China has publicly and repeatedly called for “patience and calm” from all involved parties, and has said it did not believe sanctions would work against North Korea.

North Korea “has made a big mistake in developing these nuclear programs ... and we are to help them overcome this mistake,” U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said in Seoul after a visit to Beijing Thursday to meet with Chinese officials.

“But to help them, they are going to have to help themselves, and the first issue they need to do is coming to the table,” said Hill, who is also U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of six-nation talks since 2003. North Korea refused to attend a fourth round, scheduled for last September.

Tighter nuclear laws for S. Korea

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea on Friday said it will enact a new law to tighten controls over nuclear activities after secret experiments embarrassed the country last year.

South Korea is a signatory to international treaties that forbid the development of nuclear weapons. But the country’s nuclear activities came under scrutiny when it admitted its scientists conducted plutonium and uranium experiments in 1982 and 2000.

In November, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency criticized the country but refrained from taking tougher measures. Although plutonium and enriched uranium are two main elements of nuclear weapons, an IAEA report said there was no evidence the experiments were applied to an arms program.

But North Korea accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog and the United States of applying “double standards” and giving “tacit approval” to South Korea to pursue a weapons program.

It's Bush 's fault. Had Kerrry bacame president, France, Russia would have come to our aid. N. Korea would have stopped their nuclear program.

I can't belive I was so dumb :no:

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