Secretary of State Colin Powell assured North Korea Monday that the United States has no intention of attacking that country. But he rejected the idea of a non-aggression treaty, which Pyongyang is demanding to settle the crisis over its nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Powell says the way out of the current situation is for North Korea to shut down the uranium enrichment program it disclosed in October, and to not carry through with its recent threats to reopen nuclear facilities frozen under the 1994 "agreed framework" with the United States.
At a joint news conference with Japan's foreign and defense ministers, Mr. Powell said the United States will not start a war with North Korea, but he said to accede to its demand for a non-aggression pact would be to reward Pyongyang for its own misbehavior.
"The United States will not enter into dialogue in response to threats or broken commitments," he said. "And we will not bargain or offer inducements to North Korea to live up to the treaties and agreements it has signed. We seek a peaceful resolution and will continue the closest consultation with our friends in the region, especially Japan."
Mr. Powell said North Korea's actions on nuclear policy disrupted promising moves toward better relations with Japan, the United States and others in the international community. He said "a way forward" can still be found if Pyongyang "steps back" from its recent moves and acts "in a more responsible way."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who appeared with Mr. Powell at the press session, made clear the international community was ready to help North Korea with its crushing economic problems if it reversed the decisions that have spawned the latest crisis:
"It should be obvious the real threat to North Korea's security comes from the collapsing state of its economy, and that the world including both the United States and Japan have it clear, amply clear," he said, "our willingness to assist in that recovery if North Korea will honor the agreements that it's already made to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. It's really up to North Korea and I think that's how they can address what is clearly the most serious problem they face."
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said her government, unlike the United States, will continue to keep open a diplomatic channel with North Korea for talks on normalizing relations. But she said there was no difference in U.S. and Japanese policy on North Korea's nuclear programs.
A joint U.S.-Japanese statement said North Korea's relations with the outside world will "hinge" on its willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. It also said the two governments urge North Korea to cease all ballistic missile activities, including the export of missiles and related technology.