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North Korea 'Armed to the Teeth,' Says Top US Arms Negotiator - 2002-08-29

The top U.S. arms control negotiator has accused North Korea of being the world's leading exporter of ballistic missile technology. John Bolton warns that North Korea must change its ways if it wants better relations with Washington.

U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton told a South Korean audience Wednesday that North Korea possesses a huge arms stockpile and is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

"The brave forces of our two countries stand ready to defend against an evil regime that is armed to the teeth, including with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles," Mr. Bolton said.

Speaking to South Korean officials and business leaders in Seoul, he said the United States wants a dialogue with Pyongyang. He says, however, dialogue will depend on North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, stopping sales of ballistic missile parts and technology to other countries.

Mr. Bolton also said that a 1994 deal, known as the Agreed Framework, to provide North Korea with two nuclear power plants could be in jeopardy unless the International Atomic Energy Agency is allowed to inspect suspected nuclear weapons sites.

"The North must open up to IAEA inspection and show that it is committed to a nuclear-free peninsula," he said. " That is what the Agreed Framework was intended to achieve. If the DPRK fails to do so promptly, the future of the Agreed Framework will be in serious doubt."

He said North Korea has in recent months made some positive diplomatic overtures, but he questioned if they were sincere or out of economic desperation.

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have remained tense since President Bush took office last year and got worse in January, when he said North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, comprised an "axis of evil". Mr. Bolton said the Bush administration stands by that characterization.