Bush administration officials say North Korean diplomats have confirmed to U.S. envoys in Beijing that the country possesses nuclear weapons. Three-way talks with China on the North Korean nuclear program ended Thursday, a day ahead of schedule, and Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that the United States will not give in to North Korean threats.
An official here familiar with the talks said the North Korean statement came as no shock to the United States, which has believed for some time that the reclusive communist state had one or two nuclear weapons.
But the reported admission was another sign of the difficulty of the Beijing talks, the first high-level contact between the two countries since last October, when the latest crisis over the North Korean nuclear program began.
The U.S. official, who spoke to reporters on condition that he not be further identified, said the talks hosted by China ended early after, as he put it, "everybody got their say."
However he said the discussions did not "break down" as suggested in some media reports, and also said there had been no specific threat by Pyongyang to test a nuclear weapon, though adding that translators were still examining North Korean statements.
Earlier, in a Washington address, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the talks were preliminary and had not been intended to produce specific agreements.
He said there had been strong statements by all the parties, and that North Korea was told in no uncertain terms that the international community will not accept a nuclearized Korean peninsula, and will not bow to any threats from Pyongyang.
"They should not leave this series of discussions that have been held in Beijing with the slightest impression that the United States and its partners, and the nations in the region, will be intimidated by bellicose statements or threats or actions they think might get them more attention, or might force us to make a concession that we would not otherwise make," he said. "They would be very ill-advised to move in that direction."
Mr. Powell said the Bush administration is convinced there can be a political solution to the problem, but has not ruled out other options as it looks for ways to eliminate the threat posed by the North Korean nuclear program.
He said North Korea has nothing to fear from ending such activities, and said if it does, nations in the region are ready to help the country get "out of its isolation, and out of the destitute circumstances in which its people live."
Relations with North Korea spiraled downward after the meeting last October in which a visiting U.S. envoy confronted Pyongyang with evidence it was secretly enriching uranium in violation of several accords, including the 1994 "agreed framework" with Washington that ostensibly froze its nuclear program.
Mr. Powell said Thursday the U.S. experience with the "agreed framework" made it more apparent that the issue had to be dealt with multilaterally. He said Pyongyang would like to make it a U.S.-North Korean problem, but it is not. (Signed)