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North Korea Nuclear Reprocessing

According to news reports, North Korea may have shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in order to retrieve plutonium to be used in the production of nuclear weapons.

In 1994, North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. North Korea agreed to stop work at its nuclear facilities and eventually to dismantle them in exchange for fuel oil and two nuclear reactors suitable for peaceful purposes. North Korea has not honored its commitments. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that the Communist North Korean regime risks further international isolation "because everyone...and most especially North Korea's neighbors, have been very clear that there needs to be no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula in order to maintain stability in that region."

Representatives of North Korea last met with those of China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States in June 2004. The six-party talks are aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. In return, North Korea was offered security assurances, energy assistance, and an examination of the country's energy needs. North Korea announced in February that it had manufactured nuclear weapons and was suspending its participation in the six-party talks. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says North Korea "need[s] to come back to the talks":

"That's where our focus remains. That's where our work with other members of the six-party talks remains. We're in regular contact with China. We're in regular contact with the other parties... China has been undertaking a number of efforts recently. And we...believe it is time for North Korea to give a clear commitment to return to talks and to return in a serious manner."

Mr. Boucher says that the U.S. is willing to resume negotiations with North Korea "without preconditions":

"All this discussion currently, the rhetoric and the coming out of the North or the discussion of what they are and are not doing, what they're telling travelers, serves as a reminder that the only way for North Korea to really solve these problems is to come back to the talks and that's what they need to do."

North Korea "need[s] to come back to the six-party talks," says White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "That's the way to realize better relations with the international community and end [North Korea's] isolation."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.