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9/3/04 - NORTH KOREA TALKS MUST CONTINUE - 2004-09-03


North Korea has publicly questioned the need for further talks on its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In June, North Korea had agreed to hold the next round of talks before the end of September.

For years, North Korea has been pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. This, despite the fact that North Korea agreed not to do so when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is believed that North Korea has already produced one or more nuclear weapons.

Since August 2003, representatives from North Korea have met three times in six-party talks with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea to discuss the nuclear threat. These countries have all expressed the desire for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and for a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula. In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, all parties hope that North Korea will “come to the conclusion that they are better off. . . .and the [North Korean] people are better off, by working with us to solve this problem.”

The next round of six-party talks is scheduled to take place by the end of September. But in recent days, the North Koreans have raised doubts about their willingness to attend preparatory meetings. North Korea’s state-run media have issued several angry statements vilifying the U.S. and South Korea. The U.S. still hopes and expects that the six-party talks will resume. These talks, says State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, are crucial:

“That's where our focus is. It's not on rhetorical flourishes or outbursts. It's on steady, consistent, dedicated work to bring about the end of the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula.”

The U.S. has said it is willing to be part of multilateral guarantees for North Korea's security. Such guarantees would be given in the context of an agreement for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “We do not desire any conflict with North Korea,” says Secretary of State Powell. The U.S., he says, will continue to work for a diplomatic solution to this crisis.

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