Ex-U.S. aide warns of N. Korean nuclear threat


2003-12-22
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A former senior U.S. envoy is urging Washington to �get very serious� about negotiations with North Korea on the hardline country�s admitted nuclear weapons program, which he described as �a clear threat� to the United States and the world, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Charles Pritchard, who resigned last summer as State Department special envoy on North Korea, said in an interview with RFA�s Korean service that, under the current setup, sporadic six-party talks on Pyongyang�s nuclear program cannot effect substantive change.

�There has been no indication that the U.S. is engaged in negotiations as all,� Pritchard, currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said. �We are in a preliminary phase at the plenary meetings that cannot by design find a solution to the problem at hand. The U.S. needs to get very serious about how it negotiates with North Korea even in a multilateral setting such as six-party talks.�

�As we delay and delay in trying to find a solution here, the North Koreans are not delaying. They are continuing to build their nuclear weapons program, a clear threat to the international community, a clear threat to U.S. national security,� he said.

On Dec. 1, North Korea offered the United States a package that it said aimed at ending the yearlong nuclear crisis, according to a report in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper. The report said the package would involve �simultaneous action� in which the United States should drop its �hostile policy� towards the isolated Stalinist regime.

The crisis began in October last year when Pyongyang admitted to running a secret uranium-enrichment program in violation of a 1994 accord with the United States.

�I firmly believe it�s the North Koreans who are in violation of the agreement. And it is really up to them to resolve that,� Pritchard said, referring to the 1994 Agreed Framework under which Pyongyang was to mothball its nuclear program in exchange for two safer, light-water nuclear reactors find largely by the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

The Rodong Sinmun report came amid a flurry of diplomatic visits aimed at setting up a second round of six-nation talks on the nuclear crisis before the end of the year.

Diplomats from the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia met in Beijing for China-brokered talks in late August. The discussions ended with no firm dates for a second round of meetings.

North Korea now says it wants a bilateral non-aggression pact with the United States before it abandons its nuclear arms program, while the United States wants North Korea to move quickly to scrap the nuclear program first.

However, U.S. President George W. Bush has indicated that the United States might be prepared to offer informal security guarantees that it would not invade North Korea. North Korea said it would consider Bush�s offer.

�I hope the talks can be held shortly� The six-party format is absolutely fine. It�s necessary to keep this in the multilateral arena,� Pritchard said. �But there needs to be some modification with respect to how the U.S. is working within that.�#####

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