Turning to the Korean peninsula, a U.S. congressmen just back from Pyongyang, says North Korean officials have admitted possessing nuclear weapons and their intention to produce more. VOA-TV’S Jim Bertel reports the admission came during three days of talks in Pyongyang.
Congressman Curt Weldon, the leader of the congressional delegation, says North Korea’s nuclear program appears to be growing.
CURT WELDON, U.S. CONGRESSMAN
"They admitted to having nuclear capability and weapons at this moment. They admitted to having just about completed the reprocessing of 8,000 rods, and they admitted to an effort to expand their nuclear production program.”
Speaking in Seoul, Mr. Weldon quoted North Korean officials as saying they were building the weapons in response to the U.S. led war in Iraq.
“Part of the reason they gave was a response to what they saw happened in Iraq with the U.S. in removing Saddam Hussein from power."
NARRATOR U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was also in Seoul Monday for talks with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. Mr. Wolfowitz says that while the U.S. lacks detailed information about the north’s weapons program, it takes Pyongyang’s claims seriously.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY
"Certainly what we know suggests that we should take what they are saying very seriously. And the fact that we can't give a definitive answer, I think, underscores the fact that what we really need here is a verifiable end to whatever nuclear program that they do have both those things we know and some appropriate measures to verify things that we don't know."
Mr. Wolfowitz added, he’d like to see the north use its resources to care for its impoverished people.
The redeployment of U.S. troops was also on the deputy defense secretary’s agenda while in Seoul. He told reporters the coming changes would make South Korea less vulnerable to the threat from North Korea.
“The essence of what we're trying to do is to make sure that the forces we have here on the peninsula can respond quickly and immediately even before reinforcements arrive if there were ever to be an attack."
Mr. Wolfowitz is the most senior pentagon official to visit East Asia since the Bush administration took office two years ago.