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US Urges N. Korea to Stop Bragging, Start Negotiating on Nuclear Program - 2004-09-28

The United States has urged North Korea to stop bragging about its nuclear weapons capability and return to six-party talks aimed at resolving the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula. The State Department conceded Tuesday it sees no early resumption of the Chinese-sponsored talks.

North Korea along with the five other parties to the nuclear talks agreed in principle at the last meeting in Beijing in June to hold another session by the end of September.

But U.S. officials are conceding the obvious, that the target date will not be met, while scolding Pyongyang for boastful rhetoric about its nuclear capability.

The comments followed a toughly-worded U.N. General Assembly speech Monday by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Han.

Among other things, he said his country has weaponized plutonium from 8,000 spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, and has been left with no choice but to possess a nuclear deterrent because of a deep-rooted hostile policy by the United States.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States takes the North Korean claims about its fuel-rod reprocessing seriously, but said it doesn't change U.S. policy and only reinforces the need for an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula.

"We've seen a whole series of claims from the North Koreans about you know, watch out we're doing this, watch out we're doing that," he said. "That doesn't alter the fundamental situation. The fundamental situation is that North Korea has violated its commitments, continued to violate its commitments, bragging about violating its commitments and promises, has alienated its neighbors, has postponed benefits, the benefits of interaction with the outside world, and has now stalled and apparently failed to show up for a round of talks they agreed to a few months ago."

Mr. Boucher said there is ample precedent for a country giving up nuclear weapons, and that North Korea can still do the right thing by negotiating an end to its nuclear program, and in the process charting a better course for its people.

He said the Bush administration has been very clear and consistent in offering Pyongyang what amounts to an aid-for-disarmament offer.

The United States has said it is willing to be a party to multi-lateral guarantees for North Korea's security in the context of an agreement for a complete, verifiable and irreversible end to its nuclear program.

It has said other parties to the talks could provide aid to North Korea as it disarms, and that with the completion of the process, the United States would be prepared to revive a so-called bold approach of increased aid and recognition it shelved when the nuclear crisis erupted in 2002.

The six-party talks, involving South Korea, Japan and Russia along with the United States, China and North Korea began last year and have made little apparent headway.

North Korea has been the lone holdout from restarting the talks this month, amid speculation it may be awaiting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November.