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North Korea threatens to exit nuclear weapons talks

Officials say the nation will fire up its nuclear plant again and go back to making plutonium. The warning is in response to the U.N. rebuke of North Korea's recent missile launch.

April 15, 2009|Paul Richter and John M. Glionna

Even so, U.S. officials have signaled that they consider the rebuke of North Korea just a detour from their goal of broader international talks. On April 3, Stephen Bosworth, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea, said the U.S. wanted to return to the talks "as soon as the dust has settled" from the launch.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told National Public Radio on Monday evening that it was "reasonable to expect" that the U.N. action "would result for a period of time in a further pause in these six-party talks."

Pritchard, the former negotiator, said the Obama administration ultimately may feel compelled to engage the North Koreans in one-on-one talks to bring them back to the six-party negotiations. Officials of both the Bush and Obama administrations avoided such one-on-one talks, believing the United States has more leverage when it is moving in concert with the other regional powers.

Pritchard, now president of the Korea Economic Institute, which promotes U.S.-South Korean ties, said a key diplomatic question for the United States is how long it should wait before making an overture to North Korea.

But he added: "Ultimately, we'll get there."

In Seoul, South Korean officials said they would react to North Korea's declarations "in a calm manner," but said that Pyongyang's response to the U.N. actions was "stronger than expected considering such strong words as 'never' were used," a South Korean Foreign Ministry official told Yonhap news agency.

Some Asian analysts were dismayed at North Korea's words.

"Isn't this what the United States expected?" asked Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, noting the American call for sanctions.

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paul.richter@latimes.com

john.glionna@latimes.com

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