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Powell, S. Korea FM Express Satisfaction With N. Korean Nuclear Talks - 2004-03-04

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, met Thursday and said they are satisfied with results of the latest six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Mr. Powell rejected a published suggestion that the Bush administration is running out of patience with the negotiating process.

The meeting here was preceded by a Washington Post newspaper report that the White House had sent last-minute instructions to the U.S. team at the Beijing talks, telling them to serve notice that the administration's patience in seeking a diplomatic end to North Korea's nuclear program was running out.

But the State Department said flatly there were no such instructions sent. And at joint a press appearance with his South Korean colleague, Secretary Powell said President Bush strongly believes that a diplomatic solution is possible, and that the United States will be patient in pursuing it.

"The president has made it clear that there is a diplomatic solution to this problem," he said. "And it is a problem we want to approach in as firm as manner as we can, and in as speedily a manner we can. But there is no sense of urgency in the sense that we are running out of time and if something doesn't happen in the next month or two then the process will fall apart. It will not. It is a strong process, I think getting stronger with each meeting."

Mr. Powell reiterated U.S. willingness to be part of multi-lateral security guarantees for North Korea if it accepts the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program, what is being called CVID in diplomatic shorthand.

He said that some of the parties to the Beijing talks would be ready to extend immediate aid to North Korea if it agreed to disarm and began the process with a nuclear freeze.

He said the United States would not do that. But he said the Bush administration's so-called "bold approach" of U.S. aid and recognition for Pyongyang, shelved when the nuclear crisis began in 2002, can be revived after a disarmament deal is struck.

"We have made it clear that we have no intention to attack them," he said. "And we've also made it clear to them that over time, if they realize that CVID is in their interest, the United States still has on the table the bold approach that Assistant Secretary (James) Kelly presented some time ago, where in due course, as we go down the CVID road, benefits will accrue to North Korea, which will help them out of the difficult situation they're in now."

The six-party talks, which brought together North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China, ended last Saturday with no agreement on substance. But there was a commitment to continue the dialogue with working groups leading to another round before the end of June.

U.S. officials have said this week the chief problem at the talks was North Korea's refusal to acknowledge having a uranium enrichment program.

Mr. Powell said here he expects the issue to be raised in the working groups, and said the United States is prepared to share the evidence it has that North Korea has been enriching uranium in addition to a plutonium based weapons project.