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North restates its nuclear boast

June 03,2003
U.S. Representative Curt Weldon said yesterday that senior North Koreans told a congressional delegation he led that they had nuclear weapons and planned to expand their nuclear program.
Mr. Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, with five other U.S. congressmen visited Pyeongyang over the weekend and arrived in Seoul on Sunday. They held discussions with North Korea’s foreign minister, Paek Nam-sun, and deputy foreign minister, Kim Gye-gwan.
“They admitted to having just about completed the reprocessing of 8,000 rods,” Mr. Weldon said, referring to the spent plutonium fuel rods extracted from a nuclear plant in Yeongbyeon. Reprocessing of spent fuel rods produces materials that go into nuclear weapons.
Mr. Weldon said the North Koreans gave as their reason for developing nuclear weapons U.S. actions in deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
But North Korea appeared eager to continue dialogue with the United States, Mr. Weldon said, expressing disappointment that Washington has not responded to what the North has called “a bold new initiative” at three-nation talks in Beijing in April.
The representatives said there was a window of opportunity for the dialogue to move toward a resolution, but that little time remained, with the likelihood of North Korea quickly creating a new situation.


by Kim Young-sae


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