- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The United States will not be bullied by threats from North Korea to give up its demand that Pyongyang end its nuclear weapons programs, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

Mr. Powell met with South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan to discuss the next steps in the diplomacy following inconclusive six-nation talks in Beijing last week to address the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis.

“The way forward is not helped by threats and truculent statements that are designed to try to frighten the international community,” said Mr. Powell.

“We will not be frightened nor will we be caused by such actions to take steps that we do not believe are in our interests or the interests of our partners,” he said.

In Pyongyang, North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament yesterday unanimously endorsed the government’s tough stance in the Beijing talks, saying in a resolution that the American position left the country with no choice but to pursue a nuclear deterrent.

The North’s nuclear program is a “just self-defensive means to repel the U.S. pre-emptive nuclear attacks and ensure peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region,” the Supreme People’s Assembly resolution said.

The body’s 670 lawmakers also unanimously endorsed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to another term as supreme military leader of the Communist regime.

According to the North’s official news agency, the news of Mr. Kim’s endorsement set off a spontaneous celebration in the capital, with women in colorful dress and children wearing red scarves singing and dancing in the streets.

Mr. Powell said yesterday it was not clear if the North’s reference to renewed nuclear development and missile tests in Beijing last week was “a promise or a statement,” but said the Bush administration was committed to a diplomatic solution working closely with South Korea and other Asian allies.

South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, the United States and North Korea participated in last week’s negotiations.

Mr. Powell also said another round of six-party talks was possible before the end of the year, adding that Chinese diplomats “are certainly anticipating another round of talks in the not-too-distant future.”

Illustrating the high level of interest in the wake of the Beijing talks, South Korea’s Mr. Yoon held a brief meeting with President Bush at the White House yesterday in addition to his talks with Mr. Powell.

In remarks to reporters after their discussions, Mr. Powell said he had also assured the South Korean minister that the United States would fully consult with its ally before considering any shifts or redeployment of the 37,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in South Korea.

He said the United States was also committed to an international effort to control weapons proliferation, with North Korea seen as one of the world’s biggest proliferators.

Weapons experts from the United States and 10 other countries were meeting in Paris in a bid to beef up the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-backed program to halt the sale of weapons of mass destruction.

Northeast Asia has seen a flurry of diplomacy since last week’s talks.

Bush administration officials after the meeting said North Korea had shown no flexibility in dealing with questions about its nuclear arsenal, at one point even threatening to begin missile testing if its demands were not met.

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