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North Korea Nuclear Program Problem for Whole World, says Pentagon - 2003-07-15

A top Pentagon official said the situation regarding North Korea's nuclear program is serious but a problem not just for the United States.

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita brushed aside questions Tuesday about possible U.S. military moves aimed at North Korea. He stressed repeatedly in an informal exchange with Pentagon reporters that the Bush administration is aggressively pursuing a diplomatic course to resolve the nuclear crisis.

Still, Mr. Di Rita, a top aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, described the situation as serious and he said it was a problem not just for the United States but for the whole world.

He called North Korea a country that has sent missile technology to what he termed "a lot of bad places." He also said it was a country that might sell nuclear technology.

Asked about comments by former Defense Secretary William Perry that the United States and North Korea could be drifting toward war, Mr. Di Rita said that Mr. Perry is certainly free to draw his own conclusions.

But he also said Mr. Perry understands the importance of maintaining a diplomatic offensive with respect to Pyongyang.

Mr. Di Rita's comments came as the administration revealed North Korea has disclosed it has produced enough plutonium to produce several new nuclear devices. It was previously estimated to have just one or two.

North Korea has withdrawn from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and expelled U.N. nuclear agency officials. North Korea wants to discuss the crisis with Washington. But the U.S. government is insisting on talks involving other countries, including China, Japan and South Korea.

The White House has said the Bush administration will not submit to blackmail in its efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis.