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North Korea Pressures US for Direct Talks - 2003-03-11

North Korea is warning that unless the United States agrees to direct talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, a military confrontation between the two nations could be inevitable.

Robert Raffaele has more on the story.

Washington launched a formal protest Monday about the March 2nd incident in which North Korean fighter jets intercepted a U.S. spy plane over international waters. That move prompted the Pentagon to send long-range bombers to the western Pacific island of Guam. Through its state-run media Monday, North Korea repeated its claim that the Bush administration is planning a military attack.

And South Korean President Roh-Moo-Hyun called for a stronger alliance with Washington, one day after the North test-fired a cruise missile over the Sea of Japan.

In Washington Monday, U.S.State Department Spokesperson Richard Boucher said North Korea must get the message that, in his words, it is ‘losing out’ through its actions.

“But I think it is fair to observe that it is not in North Korea’s best interests to continue down this track, continue movement in the wrong direction, to continue finding steps of whatever nature to make the problem more difficult.”

A recent satellite photograph appears to show a steam plume coming from North Korea’s nuclear reactor facility in Yongbyon, indicating that the reactor at the site has been restarted.

The nuclear dispute flared in October, when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted having re-started its nuclear program, in violation of a 1994 deal with the U.S. Washington and its allies suspended fuel shipments. The North retaliated by expelling UN monitors.

North Korea is repeating its calls for direct talks with Washington. The Bush administration is insisting on holding multi-lateral talks.