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Bush Administration Reaffirms Concern Over North Korean Nuclear Program - 2004-04-28

The Bush administration has reaffirmed its concern about North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The comments came as a major American newspaper reported intelligence officials now believe Pyongyang has more nuclear weapons than previously thought.

It was front page news in Wednesday's Washington Post. The Post reported that the United States is preparing to increase its estimate of North Korea's existing nuclear arsenal. It quoted intelligence officials as saying the number of suspected nuclear weapons is likely to rise from one or two to at least eight.

When asked about the report, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said he is not aware of any new estimate, but did not deny the intelligence community might be working on one.

Mr. McClellan says the Bush administration has serious, long standing concerns about North Korea's nuclear ambitions. He defended the president's emphasis on diplomacy in resolving the matter, saying it is important to keep making progress in the six-party talks. He said America's goal remains a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

At the State Department, Spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters there was no new official estimate from the intelligence community. He was also asked about the likelihood another round of talks could be held soon.

"Consultations are actively underway on the subject of convening a meeting of the six-party working group in the near future. Hopefully, an announcement can be made soon," he said.

Mr. Ereli said a meeting could take place as early as May, but added there is no agreement yet on a specific date.