North Korea Testing What Nukes?
Jude Wanniski
August 29, 2003


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The big story making all the major papers and of course carried on the networks is that North Korea's deputy foreign minister told the six-nation multilateral conference in Beijing that it possesses nuclear weapons and will soon test them. That's how the New York Times played it. But if you look around, you find a variety of accounts on what happened. It seems the DPRK official did not announce this plan at the conference, but said it to the US delegate, Undersecretary of State James Kelly, at an informal gathering that followed the conference. North Korea's official position is that it does not have as its goal the acquisition of nuclear weapons, so how does it now test a nuke? Here is the account by the Beijing correspondent for The Age,, and Australian newspaper, which carries the story of the chatter between the North Korean delegate and Kelly, supposedly overheard by others, but there is no confirmation that this is actually what was said. Wait a few days and I think we will see no such threat was made.

Pyongyang threatens to test bomb
By Hamish McDonald
China Correspondent
August 30, 2003

China has reacted frostily to North Korea's threat to conduct a nuclear test as the six-nation meeting here on the Korean security crisis ended yesterday with diplomats struggling to build hopeful signs into a bare agreement to meet again within two months.

Beijing's chief delegate, Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about the test threat, referred to a consensus among the six nations not to take actions that would aggravate tensions while talks continued.

"The key is that all the parties should match their words with their deeds," he said.

The Chinese diplomat also indicated that Beijing might ask the United States and Australia to limit a naval exercise in the Coral Sea next month that will practise interception of North Korean ships carrying mass-destruction weapons or contraband.

Questioned about the 11-nation Proliferation Security Initiative, of which the Coral Sea exercise forms a part, Mr. Wang said: "I hope that the six parties and other parties involved play a positive role in facilitating the next round (of talks)."

According to an unnamed official in Washington, the North Korean chief delegate, Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il, made the threat to US Under-Secretary of State James Kelly within earshot of delegates from three other countries.

Mr. Kim also said his country had the means to deliver nuclear weapons, apparently referring to ballistic missiles.

Mr. Wang did not confirm or deny this threat, but repeatedly referred to North Korea's "formal" position that it wanted a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and did not have possession of nuclear weapons as a goal.

Asked about North Korea's "informal" remarks, he refused to comment.

The Chinese diplomat, who led the intense efforts to put together the three-day talks involving China with the US, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia, said the parties had simply laid out their positions so far, and would be working in future meetings to draw up a timetable for "parallel and synchronised" steps to resolve the crisis peacefully.

As well as hints that North Korea might renounce nuclear weapons in return for security pledges, Mr. Wang saw positive signs in a US declaration that it had no intention of attacking or invading North Korea, did not seek a "regime change" in the reclusive Stalinist state, and that it had outlined a path whereby relations between Washington and Pyongyang could be opened gradually.

The North Korean and US positions remain wide apart, with Pyongyang proposing a four-step settlement starting with a resumption of fuel oil supplies in return for "agreement in principle" to disarm, and ending with dismantling of its nuclear programs but only after two new nuclear power reactors had been built by the US and its allies.

The US wants verified disarmament before aid is settled. Even the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed Elbaradei, whose inspectors were expelled by Pyongyang in January, has backed this position and says North Korea cannot be trusted.

"I don't think any settlement should be reached without a full, verified dismantlement of their nuclear capability," he told the BBC.

"I think North Korea has to understand that they cannot blackmail and they need to come back to (the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)."

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