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2/6/04 - NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN NORTH KOREA - 2004-02-06

A new round of six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will begin on February 25th. The countries involved are the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea.

In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had a covert nuclear weapons program based on uranium enrichment, in violation of its international agreements. Instead of undoing its violations, the North Korean regime expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that North Korea needs to eliminate its nuclear weapons program “in a verifiable and irreversible manner”:

“Whatever reason they may have had [for] such a program, it does not contribute to North Korea’s security, nor to stability, nor to the future of the North Korean people. For a variety of reasons it needs to be eliminated.”

The U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea. But the North Korean regime will not be rewarded for living up to its existing obligations. Mr. Boucher says that the U.S. and North Korea’s neighbors have made it clear that North Korea will not benefit by putting itself “at odds with the whole world by having a nuclear weapons program that scares everybody”:

“If North Korea changes that, would there be some beneficial effect for North Korea? I suppose so. But the point that we have made is that in terms of ending North Korea’s nuclear programs, having the I-A-E-A safeguards, having the denuclearization of the peninsula, which North Korea has agreed to many times, we're not going to pay again for the same horse we bought before."

President George W. Bush has said that the U.S. seeks a peaceful way to end the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The question now is whether North Korea wants the same.