North Korea Says It Has Nuclear Weapons, Leaves Talks


Richard Moore


 N. Korea Acknowledges It Has Nuclear Weapons 
The Associated Press 

Thursday 10 February 2005 
Pyongyang pulling out of 6-nation disarmament talks. 

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea on Thursday announced for the
first time that it has nuclear arms and rejected moves to
restart disarmament talks anytime soon, saying it needs the
weapons as protection against an increasingly hostile 
United States.

The communist state's pronouncement dramatically raised the
stakes in the two-year-old nuclear confrontation and posed
a grave challenge to President Bush, who started his second
term with a vow to end North Korea's nuclear program
through six-nation talks.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with
the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to
isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign
Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run
Korean Central News Agency.

The claim could not be independently verified. North Korea
expelled the last U.N. nuclear monitors in late 2002 and
has never tested a nuclear bomb, although international
officials have long suspected it has one or two nuclear bombs 
  and enough fuel for several more.

Rice Plays Down Dramatic Announcement

The United States has assumed since the mid-1990s that North
Korea could make nuclear weapons, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice told a news conference in Luxembourg,
playing down the dramatic announcement.

She said North Korea would only deepen its own isolation, and
forego international security guarantees, if it pulled out
of six-party talks.

"We have for some time taken account of the capability of the
North Koreans to perhaps have a few nuclear weapons," Rice
said after talks with the European Union, calling the North
Korean statement "an unfortunate move."

Washington and South Korea have a sufficient deterrent on the
Korean peninsula to "deal with any potential threat from
North Korea," she said.

The new top U.S. diplomat reiterated that the United States
had no intention of attacking or invading North Korea and
said she hoped the talks would resume soon.

"The fact of the matter is that the world has given them a way
out and they should take that way out," she said.

The negotiations offered Pyongyang a path out of isolation and
the prospect of multilateral security guarantees.

"It is very clear to the North Koreans that no such security
assurances would be forthcoming if they were not prepared
to take a decision to dismantle their nuclear weapons and
their programs in a verifiable and irreversible way," Rice

North Critical of 'Hostile' U.S. Policy

Previously, North Korea had reportedly told U.S. negotiators
in private talks that it had nuclear weapons and might test
one of them. The North's U.N. envoy said last year that the
country had "weaponized" plutonium from its pool of 8,000
nuclear spent fuel rods. Those rods contained enough 
plutonium for several bombs.

But Thursday's statement was North Korea's first public
acknowledgment that it has nuclear weapons.

North Korea's "nuclear weapons will remain (a) nuclear
deterrent for self-defense under any circumstances," the
ministry said. It said Washington's alleged attempt to
topple the North's regime "compels us to take a measure to
bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the
ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by its people."

Since 2003, the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan
and Russia have held three rounds of talks in Beijing aimed
at persuading the North to abandon nuclear weapons
development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards. No 
  significant progress has been made.

A fourth round scheduled for last September was canceled when
North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a
"hostile" U.S. policy.

South Korea said Thursday the North's decision to stay away
from talks was "seriously regrettable." Foreign Ministry
spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said "we again declare our stance
that we will never tolerate North Korea possessing nuclear

Rising Hopes Quashed

In recent weeks, hopes had risen that North Korea might return
to the six-nation talks, especially after Bush refrained
from any direct criticism of North Korea when he started
his second term last month.

On Thursday, North Korea said it decided not to rejoin such
talks any time soon after studying Bush's inaugural and
State of the Union speeches and after Rice labeled North
Korea one of the "outposts of tyranny."

"We have wanted the six-party talks but we are compelled to
suspend our participation in the talks for an indefinite
period till we have recognized that there is justification
for us to attend the talks and there are ample conditions 
and atmosphere to expect positive results from the talks," the
ministry said.

Still, North Korea said it retained its "principled stand to
solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations and its
ultimate goal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula remain

Such a comment has widely been interpreted as North Korea's
negotiating tactic to get more economic and diplomatic
concessions from the United States before joining any
crucial talks.

In Vienna, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy
Agency said that "North Korea remains our single highest

"We know they have raw materials to build nuclear weapons. We
also know that they have a delivery system and they've
expressed their intentions to have a nuclear arsenal,"
spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said.

In Japan, the top government spokesman said he wanted to
confirm the North's intentions.

"They have used this sort of phrasing every so often. They
didn't say anything particularly new," Chief Cabinet
Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a regular news conference.

Bush Tones Down Rhetoric

For months, North Korea has lashed out at what it calls U.S.
attempts to demolish the regime of leader Kim Jong Il and
meddle in the human rights situation in the North.
Washington has said it wants to resolve the nuclear talks
through dialogue.

In his Jan. 20 inaugural speech, Bush vowed that his new
administration would not shrink from "the great objective
of ending tyranny" around the globe.

In his State of the Union address earlier this month, Bush
only mentioned North Korea once, saying Washington was
"working closely with governments in Asia to convince North
Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions."

Bush's tone was in stark contrast to three years ago, when he
branded North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and
Iraq, raising hopes of a positive response from North

The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials
accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-enrichment
program in violation of international treaties. Washington
and its allies cut off free fuel oil shipments for the 
impoverished country under a 1994 deal with the United States.

North Korea retaliated by quitting the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty in early 2003 and restarting its
plutonium-based nuclear weapons program, which had been 
frozen under the 1994 agreement. --------

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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