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Powell Says N. Korea Talks Were 'Quite Useful' - 2003-04-28

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is examining with South Korea, Japan and other regional parties a proposal offered by North Korea at last week's talks in Beijing on that country's nuclear and missile programs. Mr. Powell said the three-way talks hosted by China were "quite useful."

Mr. Powell's comments here after a meeting with Jordan's foreign minister Marwan Muasher were the first confirmation by a senior Bush administration official of the North Korean proposal, which was reported last week by that country's state-controlled media.

The secretary said the North Koreans admitted certain weapons activities with the implication that they were up for negotiation. "The North Koreans acknowledged a number of things that they were doing, and in effect said these are now up for further discussion. They did put forward a plan that would ultimately deal with their nuclear capability and their missile activities, but they of course expect something considerable in return," he said.

U.S. officials had said earlier that North Korea admitted in Beijing that it possessed nuclear weapons. But under questioning, Mr. Powell denied press reports that the North Koreans had made a specific threat to test a device, saying instead that they described their nuclear capability was something that could be displayed in one form or other.

He also said there is no conclusive evidence that North Korea is reprocessing spent fuel at its reopened Yongbyon reactor complex, despite suggestions to that effect from Pyongyang.

Mr. Powell said the administration will be making a serious review of the results of the Beijing talks, now that the chief U.S. delegate there, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has returned to Washington.

He also said the North Korean proposal in Beijing was being discussed with South Korea, Japan, and other interested parties including China, Russia, and Australia.

North Korea has long maintained that the nuclear issue is a bilateral matter between it and the United States, and that it among other things wanted a non-aggression treaty with Washington as part of any disarmament accord.

The Bush administration has said it would not provide any "quid pro quos" for North Korea to live up to terms of past nuclear agreements it has violated.