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Powell Warns North Korea As Beijing Talks End Early

BY Admin  April 24, 2003 at 7:30 PM EDT

Powell also warned the North Korean government that the U.S. would not respond to threats.

“They should not leave…with the slightest impression that the United States, and its partners, and the nations in the region will be intimidated by bellicose statements or by threats or actions they think might get them more attention or might force us to make a concession that we would not otherwise make,” Powell said.

The secretary did not provide details of the North Korean threats, although there were reports Thursday that North Korea had said in talks that they already possess nuclear weapons.

James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, led the U.S. delegation in Beijing, meeting with Li Gun, the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s deputy director, and China’s deputy foreign minister, Wang Yi.

Addressing the Asia-Pacific Council in Washington, Secretary Powell said all sides expressed “strong views” during the talks.

“The North Koreans presented their point of view on their alleged nuclear program strongly, the Chinese did as well, as did the United States,” the secretary said.

American and Chinese officials may continue talks Friday, according to the secretary, but North Koreans would not participate.

Powell said all participating parties would assess the meeting, analyze various views outlined during the discussions and then decided on the best next step to take.

North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, said Thursday the situation on the peninsula was “so tense that a war may break out any moment due to the U.S. moves.”

In the same dispatch, KCNA suggested the U.S. should also be subject to inspection for weapons of mass destruction.

“If the existence of any ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and capability to develop them and other military capabilities should be considered as preconditions for a war and terrorism and the proliferation of weapons harassing the global peace and posing threat to other countries as far as state relations are concerned, it goes without saying that such military capability of the U.S. should be verifiably inspected before any other country,” the news agency said.

Despite reports that the North already possesses at least one or two nuclear weapons, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher would not comment on the matter.

“I’m not going to try to speak for North Korea,” he said. “We have certainly said for many years now that we thought North Korea had nuclear weapons, so it would not come as any great surprise for them to say something like that.”

The impoverished communist state announced last week it had started reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods, a necessary step in producing weapons-grade plutonium. On Monday, they altered their statement to say they were “successfully going forward to reprocess” the rods.

It is believed the reprocessed rods would enable the North to produce approximately five or six additional weapons to any already in its stockpile.