North Korea has again announced that it "has successfully finished the reprocessing of some eight-thousand spent [nuclear] fuel rods" and is using this material to make nuclear weapons. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says that while North Korea's claims are nothing new, its threats to build a nuclear arsenal cannot be dismissed:
"I believe that this is a matter of the most serious concern for the international community, and I think North Korea's neighbors should also be delivering a message to [North Korea's ruler] Kim Jong Il that the solution to the problem is for them to stop moving in this direction, continue to participate in the diplomacy that is underway."
North Korea is violating numerous international agreements under which it is committed not to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S., China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea are trying to engage North Korea in multi-party talks on this issue. But North Korea has responded with the absurd demand that Japan be excluded from the talks. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the U.S. categorically rejects this demand:
"Japan is a neighbor of North and South Korea, has vital interests at stake in the nuclear issue and in other areas as well. North Korean actions, particularly with regard to missiles and with regard to pursuit of nuclear weapons, have raised the concern of its neighbors, including Japan, and North Korea must deal with those concerns in these discussions."
North Korea is following a familiar pattern of threats and unreasonable demands. For its part, the U.S. will make no concessions to North Korea's threats or intransigence. As President George W. Bush said, "we're very concerned about . . .Kim Jong Il because of the fact that he didn't tell the truth to previous administrations." It's time for truth, and time for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.