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Gates Disavows Past Support For Military Option Against North Korea

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Photo courtesy AFP
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 05, 2006
US Defense Secretary designate Robert Gates said Tuesday he no longer favors military action to stop North Korea from producing more nuclear weapons. Gates said he believes Washington's current diplomatic strategy of engaging Pyongyang through six party talks is the best course of action.

"I've changed my view on how to deal with North Korea. I believe that clearly at this point the best course is the diplomatic one," he said in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Committee, quoted from a 1994 paper in which Gates argued that the only option was to destroy North Korea's plutonium reprocessing facility to keep its nuclear arsenal from growing larger.

Gates said he was impressed that China has taken a stronger stand against the North Koreans in recent weeks.

"So perhaps the one positive piece of news as a result of North Korea's nuclear test is that it antagonized the Chinese and got them off the dime on the issue," he said.

He deferred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on whether direct bilateral talks with the North Koreans would be productive.

President George W. Bush nominated Gates to succeed defense chief Donald Rumsfeld last month after the opposition Democrats won control of the US Congress in the November 7 elections.

His nomination needs the committee's approval before going to the full Senate.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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