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N.Korea says to push ahead with nuclear deterrent
Updated: 2004-04-24 15:59

North Korea will push ahead with its nuclear deterrent, saying time is not on President Bush's side in trying to resolve the atomic crisis, a U.S. expert on North Korea said on Saturday after meeting top officials in Pyongyang.

The officials had also vowed never to let nuclear weapons fall into the hands of al Qaeda or other militants, he said.

Selig Harrison, of the Center for International Policy in Washington, quoted the officials as dismissing Bush's insistence on complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program up front, and laying out a deal for an initial freeze.

"He (Bush) may be trying to gain time, but time is not on his side," Harrison quoted Kim Yong-nam, president of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and North Korea's number two leader, as saying.

"We are going to use this time 100 percent effectively to strengthen our nuclear deterrent, quantitatively and qualitatively."

In response to allegations by Vice President Dick Cheney that North Korea could proliferate nuclear technology, Kim said there was a clear distinction between missiles and nuclear material.

"There can be trade in missiles but in regard to nuclear material our policy, past, present and future, is that we would never allow such a transfer to al Qaeda or anyone else," Harrison quoted Kim as saying.

Foreign Ministry officials said they expected a third round of six-party talks comprising the two Koreas, China, Russia, the United States and Japan before the end of June and working group meetings in late May.

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