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Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 18:08:12 -0400
From: Ruben I Safir
Subject: [hangout] Next Victem
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N. Korea Claims to Have Nuclear Weapons, U.S. Officials Say
_____News From North Korea_____ ? Australia Charges N. Korean Ship's
Crew in Drug Case (The Washington Post, Apr 22, 2003) ? U.S., North
Korea to Begin Talks (The Washington Post, Apr 16, 2003) ? Panel Urges
U.S.-N. Korea Talks (The Washington Post, Mar 19, 2003) ? More News from
North Korea E-Mail This Article Printer-Friendly Version Permission to
Republish Subscribe to The Post By Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff
Writer Thursday, April 24, 2003; 3:54 PM
North Korean negotiators told U.S. officials in Beijing that the
communist nation has nuclear weapons and threatened to export them or
conduct a "physical demonstration," U.S. officials said today.
Pyongyang has never before admitted it had nuclear weapons, though the
CIA has estimated it had the materials for one or two devices. The
disclosure at the talks -- the first meeting by North Korean and U.S.
officials since October, when North Korea admitted its had a second,
secret nuclear program -- suggested Pyongyang was determined to strike a
belligerent stance, U.S. officials said.
The statement about having nuclear weapons was made during the first day
of talks, during the presentation of talking points, and the North
Koreans said they had made the same admission in 1993. But U.S.
officials have contacted former Clinton administration officials and
there appears to be no record of a previous North Korean statement.
At one point, one U.S. official said, Li Gun, deputy director of
American affairs for North Korea's Foreign Ministry, pulled aside
Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly and in effect told him:
"We've got nukes. We can't dismantle them. It's up to you whether we do
a physical demonstration or transfer them."
U.S. officials are still puzzling over the statement and its exact
meaning, including whether North Korea was threatening to test a nuclear
weapon. But, one official said, "it was very fast, very categorical and
obviously very scripted."
Li also told the Americans that North Korea has almost completed
reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods -- a statement not confirmed by U.S.
intelligence. Officials believe that may just be a bluff, but it is a
sobering bluff: Analysts have said the fuel rods can be turned into
material for two to three nuclear bombs within a few months.
China joined the talks as host and full participant in the discussions
that began Wednesday. In its first official comment on the talks, China
said the discussions had helped promote understanding and would help in
finding a solution. But a U.S. official said that the Chinese privately
are in disbelief over the North Korean statements.
In what U.S. officials said was a reference to the North Korean
statements, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said in Washington:
"North Korea must also come to understand that we will not be
threatened. We will not respond to threats."
Powell said, "Strong views were presented" at the talks. "The North
Koreans presented their point of view strongly; the Chinese did, as
well, as did the United States," he said.
North Korea, meanwhile, said it was ready to settle the dispute but that
the "master key" for successful talks was for the United States to drop
its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a war may break
out any moment due to the U.S. moves," the North's KCNA news agency
said, adding that relations with the United States had hit "rock bottom"
because President Bush named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil,"
along with Iran and Iraq.
KCNA said the war in Iraq had shown the only way for a country to
protect itself was to have a strong military deterrent.
It was unclear whether the talks would continue for a planned third day,
U.S. officials said. -- __________________________ Brooklyn Linux
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