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Clinton Speaks Out on North Korea, Iran


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a strong defense of Obama administration policy on North Korea and Iran during an extended interview Sunday on American television.

Secretary of State Clinton is sending a joint message to Pyongyang and Tehran: give up your quest for nuclear weapons and return to negotiations.

Clinton - just back from talks in Asia - told NBC television's Meet the Press that North Korea is more isolated than ever before. She said the North Korean government must realize that the world is united, and there will be no reward for bad behavior.

"We still want North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, to be part of an international effort that will lead to denuclearization," said Hillary Clinton.

She pointed to strong cooperation among the countries heavily involved in the North Korean issue. She made specific mention of China - which has hosted talks in Beijing. She said the Chinese have been extremely positive and productive.

"We have been extremely gratified by their forward-leaning commitment to sanctions, and their private messages that they have conveyed to the North Koreans," she said.

The secretary of state was then asked about the outlook for a dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program.

She said she saw no conflict of interest in seeking to negotiate with Iran's leaders despite the controversy that continues to surround the recent presidential election in that country.

"You can go back in history - and not very long back - where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people," said Hillary Clinton. "Look at all the negotiations that went on with the Soviet Union, look at the break-through in subsequent negotiations with communist China."

Last week, Clinton talked in vague terms about the creation of a nuclear umbrella to protect Mideast allies against a possible Iranian nuclear attack.

She refused to go into specifics on Meet the Press. And she stressed that she did not mean to imply that a nuclear armed Iran is inevitable.

She said Iran's leaders must understand that the United States will never let them develop nuclear weapons.

"First, we are going to do everything we can to prevent you from ever getting a nuclear weapon," she said. "But your pursuit is futile!"

At the same time, Clinton urged Israel to give U.S. policy on Iran more time to work. Israel is seen as a primary target of Iran's nuclear-weapons program, and there are fears the Israelis might launch a pre-emptive strike.

"The United States believes that Israel has a right to security," she said. "We believe, however, that this approach we are taking holds out the promise of realizing our common objectives."

Clinton noted top U.S. officials will be meeting with Israeli leaders in the coming days, and will listen to their concerns.

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