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Ending N. Korea Nuclear Crisis Depends on Pyongyang, says US Official - 2004-02-16

A top U.S. security official says that whether negotiations next week ultimately lead to an end to the North Korean nuclear crisis will depend on Pyongyang.

Undersecretary of State John Bolton met with Chinese officials, as China prepares to host a second round of multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs beginning February 25.

The talks will bring together China, Japan, North and South Korea, the United States, and Russia. The aim is to resolve a crisis in which the United States and North Korea's neighbors are demanding that the North dismantle its nuclear-weapons programs, which it has admitted to having in violation of nonproliferation accords.

Mr. Bolton said the outcome of the talks depends on North Korea.

"The issue, really, is whether North Korea is prepared to make the commitment for the complete verifiable and irreversible [dismantling] of its programs," he said.

The U.S. official said North Korea - and Iran - should follow in the steps of Libya, which last December said it would work unconditionally to allow international weapons inspectors to do their work.

"The critical conclusion that the Libyan government came to was that the pursuit of these weapons did not make them more secure," said Mr. Bolton. "It made them less secure. That is the conclusion that North Korea and Iran have to come to."

Mr. Bolton's consultations in Beijing began a day after the Washington Post newspaper reported that nuclear weapons designs found in Libya had come from China, via Pakistan. Mr. Bolton did not comment on that report.

The U.S. diplomat said his talks with Chinese officials were focused on the U.S. Proliferation Security Initiative - a plan unveiled by President Bush last year to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

The program allows for, among other things, the boarding and inspection of vessels suspected of carrying weapons-related materials to what U.S. officials say are rogue states.

China has not yet agreed to participate in the plan, saying dialogue is a better way to prevent proliferation.

Undersecretary Bolton described his discussions on the initiative with Chinese officials as good. He said China made it clear it understands the concerns of the United States, and has non-proliferation initiatives of its own.

Mr. Bolton and the Chinese agreed that the dialogue on nonproliferation efforts will continue.