North Korea called Wednesday for direct talks with the United States over a
potential missile test, but the Bush administration rejected the overture,
saying threats aren't the way to seek dialogue.
"You don't normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch
intercontinental ballistic missiles," U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said. "It's
not a way to produce a conversation because if you acquiesce in aberrant
behavior you simply encourage the repetition of it, which we're obviously not
going to do."
President Bush, meeting with European leaders in Austria, said North Korea
faced further isolation if it went ahead with any launch.
"It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have
announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles," Bush said. "This is not
the way you conduct business in the world."
Earlier Wednesday, Han Song Ryol, deputy chief of North Korea's mission to
the United Nations, said Pyongyang was seeking to resolve the missile test
concerns through direct talks with the United States.
"North Korea as a sovereign state has the right to develop, deploy, test fire
and export a missile," he told South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "We are aware
of the U.S. concerns about our missile test-launch. So our position is that we
should resolve the issue through negotiations."
Pyongyang has consistently pressed for direct dialogue with the United
States, while Washington insists it will only speak to the North at six-nation
nuclear talks. The North has refused to return to the nuclear talks since
November, in anger over a U.S. crackdown on the country's alleged illicit
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli reiterated the U.S. position
Wednesday, saying direct talks with North Korea are "not in the cards."
"The issue of North Korea's nuclear program is not a U.S.-North Korea issue.
It is an issue that concerns the entire region," he told reporters in
"If North Korea wants to talk to the United States about its missile-launch
programs or its nuclear program or about security and stability on the peninsula
in general, then we should do it through the six-party process," Ereli said.
"It's a multilateral approach which provides for, within it, bilateral
The missile crisis led former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to cancel a
trip next week to the North that could have offered a rare chance for talks. In
addition, South Korea said a missile test could affect Seoul's humanitarian aid
Washington was weighing responses to a potential test that could include
attempting to shoot down the missile, U.S. officials have said.
Bolton said he was continuing discussions with U.N. Security Council members
on possible action, and had met with Russia's U.N. ambassador.
"Obviously the priority remains trying to persuade North Korea not to conduct
the launch," Bolton said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
After North Korea surprised the world in 1998 by firing a missile that flew
over Japan into the Pacific, the Security Council issued a press statement ！ its
mildest comment. But Bolton said there would be stronger council reaction this
"There's no question about it," Bolton said. "We're seeing broad support for
something stronger but we don't want to be in a position where we're predicting
the future or doing anything other than making it clear we don't think the
launch ought to take place."
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Scheiffer said the United States has means of
responding to a North Korean missile test that it didn't have in 1998, and is
considering "all options."
In comments published Wednesday, North Korea said its self-imposed moratorium
on testing long-range missiles no longer applies because it's not in direct
dialogue with Washington, suggesting it would hold off on any launch if
Washington agreed to new talks.
North Korea imposed its missile moratorium in 1999 amid friendlier relations
with the U.S. during the Clinton administration. During a 2002 summit with
Japan, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signed an agreement to extend the
moratorium until at least 2003 ！ and reaffirmed the launch ban at another summit
Intelligence reports say the North is possibly fueling a Taepodong-2 missile
with a range experts estimate could be up to 9,300 miles ！ making it capable of
reaching parts of the United States.
There are diverging expert opinions on whether fueling would mean a launch
was imminent ！ due to the highly corrosive nature of the fuel ！ or whether the
North could wait a month or more.
Victoria Samson, a research analyst with the Washington-based Center for
Defense Information, said that if the missile were loaded, it would probably
have to be fired "within days."
"That sort of fuel combination ... starts eating away at the missile," she
The key question is, however, whether it was indeed loaded or whether the
North Koreans just wanted to make it appear that way for the benefit of
North Korea claims it has nuclear weapons, but isn't believed to have a
design that would be small and light enough to top a missile.
South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok told opposition lawmakers
Wednesday a missile test could affect Seoul's humanitarian aid to the North.
"If North Korea test fires a missile, it might have an impact on aid of rice
and fertilizer to North Korea," Lee said, according to his spokesman Yang
South Korea has shipped 150,000 tons of fertilizer this year and had planned
to send 200,000 tons more. Pyongyang has asked for 500,000 tons of rice this
year, but Seoul has yet to agree.
The European Union appealed Wednesday to the North to cancel any plans for a
"We must say that what they are trying to do ... will have consequences," EU
foreign and security affairs chief Javier Solana said on the sidelines of the
European meeting with Bush.