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Archive for Saturday, January 11, 2003

U.S. blasts N. Korea over treaty withdrawal

January 11, 2003

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— The United States on Friday condemned North Korea's decision to quit a treaty considered the cornerstone of global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

"North Korea has thumbed its nose at the international community," said Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking alongside Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ultimately, Powell said, the U.N. Security Council must take up North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and shirking of international obligations. "It is a very serious situation," Powell said. "We are not going to be intimidated. We are not going to be put in a panic situation. We are going to work this deliberately."

At the same time, Powell renewed the Bush administration's overture to conduct direct talks with North Korea and said, "We hope the North Korean leadership will understand the folly of its actions."

North Korean officials said the country did not plan to rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but would agree to let the United States verify that it was not producing nuclear weapons if Washington dropped its hostile stance.

ElBaradei accused North Korea of "a policy of defiance." He said unless North Korea reversed its actions within a few weeks the Security Council should intervene.

Overseas, Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Sweden also denounced the North Korean decision. Japan called on its regional neighbor to reverse course.

President Bush talked by telephone with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the president told Jiang, "This binds us in common purpose."

Jiang "reiterated China's commitment to a non-nuclear Korean peninsula," Fleischer said.

Meanwhile, two North Korean envoys met in Santa Fe, N.M., with Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and diplomatic troubleshooter. Richardson said they met for a total of seven hours Thursday and Friday, and planned a working dinner Friday night. They will resume talks today before the North Koreans depart.

The effect of abandoning the treaty would be to stop the International Atomic Energy Agency from monitoring North Korea's programs.

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