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8/7/03 - NORTH KOREA WEAPONS TALKS - 2003-08-07

The U.S. Government has welcomed North Korea's recent agreement to participate in expanded multilateral talks on ending its nuclear arms program. The other participants will be South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. North Korea claims to have reprocessed enough plutonium to make up to six nuclear bombs, claims it already possesses nuclear weapons, and has threatened to produce more.

North Korea is now in violation of numerous international agreements under which it committed not to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. has been working with its allies and other concerned states to deal with the threat posed by North Korea's weapons program. President George W. Bush explains the rationale for the planned multinational talks:

"We were very concerned about trying to enter into a bilateral agreement with Kim Jong-il because of the fact that he didn't tell the truth to previous administrations. And so we took a new tack. . . to engage China in the process so that there is more than one voice speaking to Mr. Kim Jong-il. . .It looks like we'll have a multinational forum. . . That means that Japan will be there. South Korea will be there. They've got a vested interest in dialogues with Kim Jong-il . . And Russia has agreed to join."

Under Secretary of State John Bolton says that North Korea's nuclear weapons program must be "dismantled in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way." President Bush believes this can be done:

"We're upbeat about the fact that others are assuming responsibility for peace besides the United States of America. And we'll see how the dialogue goes. . . We are hopeful, however, that Mr. Kim Jong-il, because he's hearing other voices, will make the decision to totally dismantle his nuclear weapons program, that he will allow there to be complete transparency and verifiability. "

The international community is united in its conviction that the Korean Peninsula must be free of nuclear weapons. The upcoming talks in Beijing provide North Korea with the best opportunity to resolve the international community's concerns and pave the way for a better life for its people.