Hours after inter-Korean talks wrapped up, Seoul and Pyongyang are apparently no closer to resolving tensions over North Korea's nuclear program. And official comments from Pyongyang are insinuating the North does in fact have a nuclear weapons capability - which it says it needs to deter a possible U.S. attack.
After cabinet-level talks concluded in Pyongyang early Wednesday, the two Koreas issued a joint statement promising more dialogue to find a peaceful resolution to the peninsula's nuclear crisis.
South Korea's delegation spokesman Shin Eon-sang says it is considerable progress that both sides agreed to pursue the nuclear issue through talks considering the attitude taken by North Korea and how serious the current situation is. But South Korea came away empty-handed on its demand the North put in writing that it will scrap its nuclear ambitions.
In fact within hours, North Korea strongly suggested publicly that its does possess nuclear weapons and intends to keep them.
North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, blamed hostile U.S. policy for compelling Pyongyang to "opt for a necessary force deterrent and put it into practice."
In addition, the official commentary appears to confirm U.S. allegations that North Korean negotiators admitted to having nuclear weapons during last week's Beijing-hosted talks. KCNA accuses the United States of what it calls a "mean trick" by making the North's comments public.
Meanwhile the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo is publishing what it says are details of the proposal North Korea offered last week to U.S. and Chinese diplomats in Beijing. The proposal includes an end to North Korea's nuclear threat in exchange for a U.S. non-aggression treaty, economic aid, and the removal of North Korea from Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism.
British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell says the North's proposal offers a possible starting point. He is expected to press North Korea for clear information about its nuclear capability during high-level talks with the North in London on Wednesday.
But U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Tuesday that, while the offer is still being studied, Pyongyang's proposal appears to be nothing new and would not lead in the right direction. He says if the United States makes concessions to North Korea for doing what it had should have done already, it would reward blackmail and intimidation.
Washington is insisting on a verifiable end to North Korea's nuclear program and compliance with its non-proliferation agreements before any aid or other benefits will be considered.