Washington (AFP) April 10, 2010
North Korea has as many as six nuclear weapons, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said as she pressed for international efforts to help denuclearize the volatile hermit country.
But Clinton also stressed that despite a recent new pact with Russia to reduce atomic stockpiles and a push for disarmament, the United States will keep nuclear arms so long as other countries have access to the weapons of mass destruction.
"We will not unilaterally disarm. We will maintain our nuclear deterrent," she said during a speech Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.
In a rare reference by the chief US diplomat to the number of weapons held by North Korea, Clinton said Pyongyang had "between one and six nuclear weapons."
The Council on Foreign Relations think-tank said last year that the North has built between six and eight nuclear weapons.
Washington and five other regional powers have struggled to get North Korea back to the negotiating table for disarmament talks after Pyongyang walked out in April 2009 and staged its second nuclear test a month later.
But Clinton said she was confident the so-called six-party talks grouping China, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States would resume despite what she called "instability" over the North's leadership.
She pointed to Iran and North Korea -- both exempted from the new US nuclear stance that vows not to attack non-nuclear states -- as countries "that have actively pursued nuclear weapons (and) are still doing so today."
"That's why we're emphasizing so much international efforts against both of them to try to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the first place."
North Korea slammed the new US nuclear policy, saying it "chilled the hard-won atmosphere for the resumption" of the stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, and vowed to strengthen its own atomic arsenal, the official news agency said, citing an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman.
earlier related report
"As long as the US nuclear threat persists, the DPRK (North Korea) will increase and update various type nuclear weapons as its deterrent in such a manner as it deems necessary in the days ahead," a foreign ministry spokesman told the official news agency.
In its "Nuclear Posture Review" announced Tuesday, the Obama administration renounced the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But it left open all options against countries such as North Korea or Iran which it said defy non-proliferation obligations. The North quit the treaty in 2003 and has since staged two atomic weapons tests.
"This proves that the present US policy towards the DPRK is nothing different from the hostile policy pursued by the Bush administration," the ministry said.
"What is most urgent is for the US to roll back its hostile policy towards the DPRK in practice."
The North also complained that the new US policy "chilled the hard-won atmosphere for the resumption" of stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
The talks, grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, were last held in December 2008. The North announced in April 2009 it was quitting the forum and it staged its second nuclear test a month later.
As conditions for returning, it wants a US commitment to hold talks about a formal peace treaty and the lifting of UN sanctions.
The North says it developed its atomic arsenal to deter a US nuclear threat and cannot give it up until the threat is lifted.
The foreign ministry said the North's goal is denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
"If the peninsula and the rest of the world are to be denuclearised, the US should stop such hostile acts as trampling down upon other countries' sovereignty and right to existence, pursuant to its policy of strength based on nuclear supremacy."
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S.Korea says Kim's trip to China likely late April
Seoul (AFP) April 6, 2010
South Korea's intelligence chief predicted Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il could make a long-anticipated trip to China late this month. Won Se-Hoon, head of the National Intelligence Service, told a parliamentary committee that Kim could visit Beijing around April 25, according to an unnamed lawmaker quoted by Yonhap news agency. Won's prediction was based on Kim's likely at ... read more
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