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US Offers Talks if N. Korea Abandons Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-12-02


The U.S. envoy to Japan Howard Baker says the United States is willing to talk with North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons program.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker said Monday that Washington could move quickly to restart a stalled dialogue with communist North Korea if it abandons nuclear weapons effort.

In a Tokyo press conference, the ambassador emphasized that Washington hopes to resolve the matter with North Korea. Pyongyang recently admitted that it has a program to produce highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons. The program violates several international accords. "If North Korea were to begin dismantling their nuclear capability - I am speaking now of their centrifuge operations - that if they would begin that, they might be very surprised at how promptly the United States would respond in its negotiations and an efforts to resolve these issues," he said. "But the underlying point is that President [George W.] Bush does not wish to have a conflict with North Korea."

Mr. Baker said that North Korea and Iraq are both dangerous, and pose challenges to the rest of the world. He says mankind must act together to resolve the challenges of these nations, which President Bush says make up an axis of evil along with Iran because of they are developing weapons of mass destruction.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have urged Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. They decided last month to suspend fuel oil shipments to the impoverished nation since it is violating a 1994 agreement to end its weapons program.

As for Iraq, Mr. Baker said that President Bush has no immediate plans for military action against Baghdad. He said that whether there will be conflict depends on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Washington suspects Iraq is violating its 1991 surrender in the Gulf War by trying to make banned weapons. The United States threatens military action if Iraq does not comply with United Nations resolutions on arms inspections. If [Saddam Hussein] is willing to dispose of his weapons of mass destruction and reform his institutions, there will be no conflict. If he is not, then it continues to be a challenge," said Mr. Baker.

Mr. Baker says the United States has no ill will against the people of Iraq, but is dissatisfied with the government for oppressing its people and threatening other nations.

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