The Bush administration says it is not interested in bilateral talks with North Korea about its nuclear program. This comes just one day after the Communist state claimed that it does possess nuclear weapons, and plans to keep producing them.
The White House said Friday that North Korea must resolve the issue in the context of six-party talks, which the North withdrew from in 2004.
The White House called on Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. Spokesman Scott McClellan said a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula is of utmost importance to North Korea's neighbors
"That's why we're working with all parties in the region to say to North Korea: 'You need to come back to the six-party talks. You need to permanently dismantle your nuclear weapons program. That's the way to realize better relations with the international community and end your isolation," said the White House spokesman.
Since 2003, the U.S., the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, and China have held three rounds of talks, aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. A fourth round of talks, scheduled for last September, was canceled when the North withdrew, citing what it called a "hostile" policy by the United States.
International observers have long suspected that Pyongyang has at least one or two nuclear bombs, and enough fuel to produce more. Thursday, North Korea declared that it did have such weapons, but said they were necessary to defend against what it claimed was an "undisguised policy" by the Bush administration to "isolate and stifle" Pyongyang from the international community.
The White House has said repeatedly it has no desire to attack the Korean peninsula.
Friday, North Korea's envoy to the United Nations was quoted in a South Korean newspaper, as demanding bilateral talks with Washington.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said bilateral talks had been tried before, and did not work. "When the U.S. and North Korea had direct negotiations to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program, we got a deal, and then North Korea started cheating on the deal, very quickly within a couple of years," said Mr. Boucher.
When approached by an Associated Press reporter in New York, North Korean U.N. Ambassador Han Sung Ryol offered little hope his government would return to multinational discussions.
The United Nations joined several governments in expressing concern about North Korea's latest statements.
Special Advisor Maurice Strong says, "Yes it's a very real bump in the road. The Secretary-General is deeply concerned. He's instructed me to intensify our efforts at supporting the resumption of the six-party process, and our support for it. I expect that there will be a peaceful resolution, because the consequences of NOT resolving this issue are so horrendous for all parties.
Meanwhile, Mister McClellan said South Korea's foreign minister (Ban Ki-moon) met with Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington, and agreed that Pyongyang should end its nuclear weapons program.