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US Warns N. Korea Against Reprocessing Nuclear Fuel Rods - 2003-01-31


The Bush administration is warning North Korea against reprocessing nuclear fuel rods to create weapons-grade plutonium. U.S. newspapers are reporting that American spy satellites have detected what appears to be an effort to move those fuel rods out of storage.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says, any steps toward reprocessing those fuel rods would be "yet another provocative action" by North Korea that he says is intended to intimidate and blackmail the international community.

Published reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post Friday quote unnamed administration officials as saying, spy satellites have detected trucks that appear to be moving some of North Korea's 8,000 nuclear fuel rods. Those officials believe that could be a first step toward producing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Fleischer says, any such step would further isolate North Korea from the international community, which, he says, is united in seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis. He says President Bush supports a move by the International Atomic Energy Agency to bring the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program to the U.N. Security Council.

Pyongyang has warned the Security Council not to get involved in the dispute, and says any U.N. sanctions against the country would be considered an act of war.