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Powell: US Not Planning to Attack North Korea - 2002-12-29

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States is not planning to attack North Korea, and is willing to communicate with Pyongyang through third channels about its nuclear program.

The Secretary of State was a last minute addition to all five of the Sunday news interview programs that air in the United States.

On NBC's Meet the Press he said North Korea is "up to no good." He said President George W. Bush has every option to deal with the problem. But he made clear that despite rising tensions in recent days, the U.S. focus remains on diplomacy.

"We are not planning a preemptive strike," said Mr. Powell. "The United States has a full range of capabilities: political, economic, diplomatic and, yes, military. But we are not trying to create a crisis atmosphere at this point by threatening North Korea."

He was asked if the United States is willing to talk to North Korea. Mr. Powell said there are ways the two can communicate, though he ruled out direct negotiations.

"We have channels open. We have ways of communicating with the North Koreas. They know how to contact us," he said.

Later on ABC's This Week, Mr. Powell said North Korea cannot expect concessions in exchange for giving up its nuclear program. He warned there is no way Pyongyang will be rewarded for expelling U.N. nuclear arms inspectors and reopening a nuclear facility that can yield plutonium.

"What they want is not a discussion. They want a negotiation where we give them something for them to stop the bad behavior." he said.

Appearing on the same program, a prominent Senate Democrat said the Bush administration may have helped create the problem. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said President Bush was wrong to cut off direct talks with North Korea when he took office almost two years ago.

"They ended the discussions with North Korea immediately, even though the South Koreans wanted to continue them at that time," he said. "So we disconnected ourselves from our allies at that time, and our closest ally in the region, South Korea, which surely has as much at stake as we do. They are the neighbors of a very threatening North Korea."

Mr. Levin went on to urge the administration to resume direct discussions with Pyongyang. As he put it: they should hear from our lips just how significant their missteps have been.