Secretary of State Colin Powell has reiterated U.S. readiness to help North Korea deal with its economic problems, provided Pyongyang gives up its nuclear-weapons ambitions. Meanwhile, U.S. analysts are examining recent North Korean commentaries that may, or may not, have included a claim by Pyongyang that it possesses nuclear arms.
The Secretary of State said the latest North Korean statements present what he termed a "mixed story" over whether Pyongyang is actually claiming to have nuclear weapons. But he said if it does possess such weapons, it would put North Korea in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it has been a party since 1985.
Speaking at a seminar for high-school journalists, Mr. Powell stressed that the United States and key allies are taking a non-confrontational approach to North Korea despite its surprise admission to a U.S. envoy early last month that it had a program for producing weapons-grade uranium.
"We have responded, I think, in a very careful, patient deliberate way, working with our friends and allies, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese and South Koreans, making it clear to North Korea that we can help you with the problems you are now having. But it has to begin with the end of any such nuclear weapons program," Mr. Powell said. North Korea had promised to halt its nuclear program under the 1994 "agreed framework" with the United States, under which it was to get western-designed nuclear power plants and interim supplies of fuel oil.
The international consortium administering the deal, KEDO, decided late last week to suspend oil shipments after a current delivery is completed. Mr. Powell called that decision, strongly supported by the Bush administration, non-precipitous and "prudent". He said it reflects "no hostile intent" on the part of the United States toward North Korea.
"We have no intention to invade. We have no intention to impose our sovereignty upon their sovereignty. We recognize them as a sovereign nation that, perhaps at some future time, there will be a way to unify the Korean peninsula. And we do not intend to threaten them or to invade them. We would like to help them if they will allow themselves to be helped," he said.
The Secretary said it is North Korea that has to fix the problem, and he said a more supportive approach from the international community depends of Pyongyang ending its nuclear efforts and other programs the United States believes are destabilizing.