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Rice Pushes Diplomacy to Dismantle North Korean Nuclear Program

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says North Korea's test of a nuclear device on October 9 requires a strong response. She said reaction from the international community has been quick and remarkable. Secretary Rice says besides United Nations sanctions against North Korea, diplomacy is being used. She made the comments Wednesday after a trip last week to Northeast Asia where she spoke with U.S. allies.

During a speech in Washington, Secretary of State Rice said the United States has created a diplomatic strategy to encourage the North Korean government of Kim Jong-Il to dismantle its nuclear program. She said North Korea's behavior poses a regional challenge and that South Korea, Russia, Japan and China must be part of the solution, providing leverage to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

"The goal of our diplomacy is and must be to create an international environment that presses North Korea to make better decisions than it has made and that holds it fully accountable for the decisions that it takes. Let us be very clear: President Bush has said before, and I have said before, that the United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea. So the entire world should understand that North Korea's claims that our policies are hostile are simply excuses for the government's refusal to make constructive choices and to stick with them."

Secretary Rice said the U.S. and its allies are expanding measures to defend themselves against North Korea's proliferation efforts. These include looking at missile defense cooperation, searching for radioactive materials, and taking financial measures to target banks and companies that assist North Korea's weapons program. Secretary Rice said adhering to a U.N. resolution banning the sale of luxury goods and weapons material to North Korea is key.

"The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to any state or non-state entity would be considered a grave threat to the United States and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of any such action."

Secretary Rice said the path remains open without preconditions for North Korea to return to talks with the U.S. and its partners, which began in 2003. The discussions have been stalled for more than a year because of a boycott by North Korea. She said the group can make progress if North Korea is seriously ready to return.