- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday rejected North Korea's offer to scrap its nuclear weapons program in exchange for a long list of concessions from the United States, saying the proposal would not lead in the right direction.
President Bush's top national security advisers were said to be divided over whether the outcome of last week's talks in Beijing, where the North Koreans made their offer, justified continuing the dialogue with Pyongyang.
"It is a proposal that is not going to take us in the direction we need to go," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"It's a proposal of the kind we have seen previously from them, and it's something that, because our other friends are interested in, we will study."
On Monday, Mr. Powell said the North Koreans "put forward a plan that would ultimately deal with their nuclear capability and their missile activities," but they "expect something considerable in return."
The list of demands, which a senior State Department official called so extensive as to defy a concise description, included resumption of free shipments of heavy fuel oil, security guarantees and the normalization of relations with the United States.
Meanwhile, after three days of difficult bilateral talks in Pyongyang, South Korea failed to extract a North Korean commitment to scrap its nuclear programs. But both sides agreed to pursue a wide range of cooperation projects.
The inter-Korean meeting, the first since South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took office in February, was troubled from the beginning on Sunday, with Pyongyang insisting Seoul had no part to play in the nuclear crisis.
"The nuclear issue is a matter to be discussed only between North Korea and the United States," North Korean chief negotiator Kim Ryong-song said in a statement.
The two Koreas, however, agreed to forge ahead with reconciliation and economic cooperation.
During the talks in Beijing, the first between the United States and North Korea in six months, Pyongyang acknowledged for the first time that it had nuclear weapons, Mr. Powell said.
He repeated a line the administration had not used for weeks: "We will not be intimidated by their claims and threats. As the president has said, we will not be blackmailed."
North Korea, meanwhile, said yesterday that future talks would be a waste of time if the United States continues to insist that Pyongyang completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program before discussing economic and diplomatic benefits.
"It is quite obvious that as long as the U.S. maintains such a stand, the two sides will only waste time no matter how frequently they negotiate, and such talks will not be of any help to the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula," said a statement in Pyongyang's official newspaper, Minju Joson.
"What is urgent for the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue is for the U.S. to put into practice its will to make a switch-over in its hostile policy toward [North Korea]," it said.
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Washington would "not reward North Korea for bad behavior."
"What we seek is North Korea's irrevocable and verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program," he told reporters. "We will not provide them with inducements for doing what they always said they were going to do."
Both Mr. Powell and Mr. Fleischer said the president still believes the problem can be resolved through diplomacy.
"This is the diplomatic process, and the diplomatic process is a lengthy one. The president is prepared to pursue it at that length. And so if it takes time, it will take time," Mr. Fleischer said.
He also said Mr. Bush discussed the North Korean crisis by telephone yesterday with South Korea's Mr. Roh and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. In both calls, the president reiterated his intention to resolve the issue peacefully, he said.
Mr. Bush's top national security aides, known as "the principals," held a meeting yesterday at the White House to discuss the administration's North Korea policy for the first time since the Beijing talks.
The administration, which has been deeply divided on the issue since it came to office more than two years ago, appears split on whether the dialogue with Pyongyang should continue.
Mr. Powell, who has been a strong proponent of multilateral talks, is said to favor another round. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, is more skeptical, administration officials said.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who is traveling in the Middle East, was represented at the meeting by his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. The principals also include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet.
North Korea reportedly admitted in October to having a secret uranium-enrichment program, violating a 1994 deal known as the Agreed Framework.
After the United States responded by ending shipments of fuel oil, Pyongyang reopened its nuclear complex in December and expelled weapons inspectors from the United Nations. In January, it withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Today, North Korea is set to open its first embassy in London. It established diplomatic relations with Britain in 2000 and since then has had a mission and a charge d'affaires but not an ambassador.
British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who is to meet with visiting Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon, said: "I would urge North Korea to … demonstrate either that they don't have nuclear weapons, or if they do, that they are prepared to visibly and verifiably dismantle them."

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