- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

3:11 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration declared today that it won’t allow North Korea’s test-firing of missiles to become a Washington-Pyongyang standoff. He said global expressions of revulsion dramatize concern over North Korea’s nuclear intentions.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, talking with reporters at the State Department as she met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, said expressions of outrage demonstrate “it is now not a matter of the United States and North Korea.”

The United States still thinks six-party talks with North Korea offer the best opportunity for resolving the nuclear impasse, she said, adding that “the international community does have at its disposal a number of tools to make it more difficult for the North Koreans to engage in this kind of brinkmanship.”

“I can’t really judge the motivations of the North Korean regime; I wouldn’t begin to try,” Miss Rice added. Nevertheless, she did suggest that the North Koreans may have miscalculated how the tests would be seen, saying “they have gotten a very strong reaction from the international community.”

“If it was the desire of Kim Jong-il to turn this into a two-party negotiation or standoff between the United States and North Korea, he blew it,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said. “Instead, what has happened is that the United States continues to work with its allies in the region.”

Miss Rice said that Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who oversees the stalled negotiations with North Korea, was in touch with the other countries at the six-party table. They are China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

Miss Rice added that she thinks “it would still be incumbent on the North Koreans to use that kind of infrastructure to address these issues.”

The White House earlier had said that the missile tests were a rebuff of international demands for North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program and did not set up a standoff between Washington and Pyongyang.

Mr. Hill, in an interview with Associated Press, said he would leave tonight for Beijing and continue on for talks with officials in other countries involved in the negotiations, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

“We have a lot of support in a lot of places,” Mr. Hill said, but added that he hoped the unity would be strengthened in the talks he would be holding with the other participants.

Though Mr. Hill was reluctant to say what the Bush administration could do specifically, he said some kind of resolution probably would be adopted in the Security Council. He declined to provide any details.

Mr. Snow said North Korea could test-fire a few more short- to medium-range missiles on top of the seven already fired, “but honestly, we don’t know what to expect.”

The United States and Japan asked the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency session today, but Mr. Snow declined to disclose details about options the United States might be considering.

The test-firings of seven missiles — including a long-range missile designed to reach U.S. soil — began as America celebrated the Fourth of July. It raised the stakes in a nuclear crisis and pressured the U.S. and its partners to penalize Pyongyang. North Korea fired a seventh missile early today after the initial round of world reaction.

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