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Rice tells N.Korea US can deter attack
Updated: 2005-01-19 05:03

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday sent North Korea a two-pronged message, insisting the United States has no plans to invade the country but stressing it does have a deterrent against hostile actions by Pyongyang.

U.S. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice is sworn in at her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 18, 2005. [Reuters]
"It is important to repeat that North Korea should understand fully that we have a deterrent against any North Korean action or attempts at action," Rice said.

She also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is expected to approve her nomination on Wednesday: "The United States has no intention to attack North Korea, to invade North Korea."

North Korean leaders have been waiting to hear what Rice and President Bush say about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy this week, when Bush is inaugurated for a second term, before deciding to return to the six-country nuclear negotiations that have been stalled since last June.

North Korean officials told U.S. congressmen on a visit to Pyongyang last week they were looking for new assurances that America would not take military action against their country or try to overthrow the government.

Rice reiterated that the United States has no problems with the people of North Korea and has been the major food aid donor to the impoverished country. The adversarial relationship with Pyongyang "doesn't have to be that way," she insisted.

"There is another path," which includes multilateral security assurances for North Korea if it agrees to give up its nuclear programs "verifiably and irreversibly," she said.

Rice said she hoped Pyongyang would follow through on recent indications it would return to the six-country talks hosted by China and said a U.S. offer made during the last talks in June 2004 remained on the table.

"We heard nothing really from the North Koreans. I hope they will actually act because we've found their words are not always completely reliable," she said.

Rice said: "Our goal now has to be to make the six-party mechanism work for dealing with the North Korean nuclear program and then hopefully, for dealing with the broader problem of managing this dangerous regime."

She did not explain exactly what she meant about managing the Pyongyang regime.

Pyongyang was particularly stung by Bush's description of North Korea in 2002 as part of "an axis of evil" with prewar Iraq and Iran. He and his aides no longer use that term.

U.S. officials say the North has eight or more nuclear bombs.

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