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1/17/03 - NORTH KOREA’S OBLIGATIONS - 2003-01-17

North Korea appears intent on pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Monitoring devices have been removed from the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, and inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were told to leave. On January 10th, North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1985. “The United States,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell, “condemns this action on the part of North Korea.”

North Korea is in defiance of an international consensus in support of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. As Mr. Powell said, “We will continue to be open to the opportunity for talks [with North Korea], but talks that will deal with this problem -- a problem created by North Korea.... We hope,” said Mr. Powell, “that the North Korean leadership will realize the folly of its actions [and] will realize that the international community and the United States will not be intimidated.”

North Korea must dismantle its nuclear weapons program. “Otherwise,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, “North Korea will again be playing a blackmail game. This is a road,” said Mr. Fleischer, “the world has traveled down before, which is a dead-end road. And we have no interest in traveling down that path.”

President George W. Bush views North Korea’s actions “as an opportunity to bind together nations in the neighborhood and around the world to make it clear to the North Koreans that we expect this issue to be resolved peacefully.”

The U.S. will talk to North Korea. But, said President Bush, “what this nation [the U.S.] won’t do is to be blackmailed. And what [the U.S.] will do is use this as an opportunity to bring the Chinese and the Russians and the South Koreans and the Japanese to the table to solve this problem peacefully.”