- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called prospects of North Korea agreeing to return to six-nation nuclear talks “implausible, if not impossible” Thursday, and she vowed to maintain a cutoff of U.S. aid unless the isolated nation changes its mind.

It was the first time the Obama administration signaled its intent to impose bilateral economic measures on the North for its recent missile launch and decision to restart its nuclear plant at Yongbyon.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, asked Mrs. Clinton during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing why the administration is seeking $100 million in economic aid for the communist state.

“That money is there in the event - which at this point seems implausible, if not impossible - the North Koreans return to six-party talks and begin to disable their nuclear capacity again,” she said. “We have absolutely no interest and no willingness on the part of this administration to give them any economic aid at all.”

Asked by Mr. Brownback whether that includes heavy fuel oil - which the United States and other countries in the six-party talks have been shipping to the North as part of a deal reached in 2007 - Mrs. Clinton said: “Absolutely - that is my very strongly held belief.”

The United States halted the shipments late last year when the six nations - the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas - deadlocked on steps to verify North Korea’s nuclear claims.

The North has since defied repeated international warnings and launched a long-range rocket April 5.

Although the test largely failed, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement condemning the launch.The North is demanding an apology from the United Nations.

“They are digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole with the international community,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I think they were shocked that we were able to get the Chinese and Russians onto such a strong statement in the U.N.”

In recent weeks, the North Koreans have expelled U.N. inspectors and U.S. specialists at Yongbyon and said they have begun reprocessing thousands of spent fuel rods with the goal of extracting plutonium for additional nuclear bombs.

The North is believed to have enough plutonium to make about a half-dozen nuclear bombs.

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