- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 19, 2005

The United States and Japan yesterday urged North Korea to resume international talks about its nuclear weapons program, and North Korea said it no longer wanted to talk to either country.

“We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a press conference at the State Department following talks with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and their Japanese counterparts.

“The ministers and I urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks as the best way to end nuclear programs and the only way for North Korea to achieve better relations,” Miss Rice said.

But North Korea said it is not ready to resume those talks and that it is no longer seeking direct meetings with Washington, according to a report carried by China’s official news agency, Xinhua, which cited an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Japan’s foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, joined Miss Rice in calling for an “early and unconditional resumption” of talks with North Korea. He said there were “no prospects as to when they will return, but time is slipping by and this only worsens the situation.”

The Bush administration has demanded that North Korea halt development of nuclear weapons and wants the communist country to drop its opposition to resuming negotiations with China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of six-nation talks since 2003.

Reviving the stalled talks has taken on greater urgency since North Korea’s unconfirmed declaration this month that it has successfully manufactured nuclear weapons.

In a joint statement, the four officials yesterday said North Korean’s nuclear program “poses a serious challenge” to international nonproliferation efforts and “represents a direct threat to the peace and stability” in Asia.

Regarding China’s threat to use force against Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province that must be reabsorbed by the mainland, Miss Rice said the four officials talked about their “desire for cooperative relations with China, our desire to ensure that the cross-[Taiwan] Strait issues can be resolved peacefully.”

In the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, a top Chinese Communist Party official met with North Korea’s No. 2 leader yesterday, seeking a change of heart after Pyongyang reportedly rejected any further negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.

The head of the Chinese Communist Party’s international department, Wang Jiarui, who flew to Pyongyang yesterday, had a “friendly conversation” with Kim Yong Nam, the North’s No. 2 official, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations said in an interview published yesterday that his government had “burned its bridges” in the escalating nuclear standoff.

Ambassador Han Sung-ryol told South Korea’s JoongAng newspaper: “We have no other option but to have nuclear weapons as long as the Americans try to topple our system.”

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