Santiago, June 10 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell said yesterday America would stick to its strategy of seeking a diplomatic solution with North Korea through multilateral talks on its nuclear programmes.
Responding to North Korea’s most explicit public acknowledgment to date that it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, Powell said: “It will not change our strategy.”
“This does not mean we are on our way to war. We are not. The president (George W. Bush) continues to believe that there is an opportunity for a diplomatic solution, a political solution, but it’s a solution that must come in a multilateral forum,” he told a news conference in Chile.
“We cannot allow North Korea to dictate to us who they will speak to on this issue because too many nations are affected. They all have to be able to speak to this issue and that’s why we are continuing to press for a multilateral forum,” he said.
The North Koreans have asked for direct bilateral negotiations with the US but they agreed to take part in trilateral talks in Beijing in April with both the US and China. No more talks have been set.
The North Korean announcement yesterday said the communist country wanted nuclear weapons so it could cut its huge conventional forces and divert funds into an economy foreign analysts say is close to collapse.
In a separate development, a senior US official said he believed the North would soon agree to five-way talks on its nuclear ambitions, saying Pyongyang’s long opposition to the format appeared to be weakening.
Under the five-way format, Washington’s east Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, would also take part, along with China.
Powell said: “We hope North Korea will come to the understanding that it must be multilateral and it must include Japan and South Korea as a minimum.”
He said the North Korean statement that it had nuclear weapons was not in itself very new because it had told the US as much and the US believed it may already have a few nuclear weapons.