Powell slams N. Korean 'disregard' for nuke treaty
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says North Korea has "thumbed its nose" at the world by announcing it has pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
"This kind of disregard for such an agreement cannot go undealt with," he told reporters Friday after talks with Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
The meeting came after North Korea announced it was withdrawing from the treaty, although it said it had no plans to produce nuclear weapons.
Powell called the move "very, very unfortunate."
"North Korea has thumbed its nose at the international community; this is very regrettable. It's a sad statement on the part of the North Koreans," he said.
However, Powell added that Washington would "will continue to search for a solution, continue to be open to the opportunity for talks," Powell said. "We hope that the North Korean leadership will realize the folly of their actions."
ElBaradei, too, raised the specter of consequences.
He called the non-proliferation treaty "a cornerstone of the whole nuclear arms regime. A country cannot just walk out without ramification."
He said he will work to resolve the issue, "through peaceful means."
Peace and security
ElBaradei added, "Challenging the integrity of the non-proliferation regime is a matter which can affect international peace and security."
Though he said he would give diplomacy a chance, "if it doesn't succeed, the matter will have to go to the Security Council. But I hope we will be able to defuse the situation before we have to go to the Security Council."
Commenting on the North Korean move, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the decision was "not totally unexpected."
"North Korea has showed its disdain for the treaty for many years," he said, adding the move "represents a further escalation of North Korea's defiance of the international consensus in support of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons."
Boucher said he rejected North Korea's claims that actions by the United States or the IAEA could have justified the move.
The United States has no hostile intent toward North Korea and will consult with friends and allies in considering next steps, he said.
"We call on North Korea to reverse this and other recent steps; we seek a peaceful resolution to our differences," Boucher told reporters.
Friday's announcement by Pyongyang has not resulted in any change in U.S. policy, Boucher said.
"We continue to pursue the course, and we will continue to pursue the course, that we have embarked on," he said.
With pressure growing on Pyongyang White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush held a 15-minute telephone conversation with China's President Jiang Zemin, in which he repeated that the United States has no intention of invading North Korea.
The two leaders agreed that North Korea's announcement "was a concern to the entire international community," Fleischer said. They called the situation one "that binds us to a common purpose," he added.
Jiang assured Bush that "China will work with all relevant parties to promote a quick and peaceful resolution of the North Korea nuclear problem," according to China's official Xinhua news agency.
Fleischer added that the Bush administration had been heartened by statements of condemnation directed at Pyongyang from France, Britain and Russia.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly will travel to the region over the weekend to discuss the situation with representatives of South Korea, China, Japan and other countries in an attempt to push North Korea to change course, he said.
Speaking in Moscow Friday Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he was "deeply disappointed and concerned" over North Korea's decision to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty.
"We will demand an immediate abandonment of their decision and we will make all efforts for a peaceful resolution of this problem," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who held talks with Koizumi Friday, said there remained some room for maneuver.
After studying North Korea's statement, he said, "we noticed that the leadership of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is keeping the door open for talks. We expect that during such talks, all questions and concerns of all parties can and will be solved."
A spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he wants North Korea to reconsider.
"The secretary-general stresses the importance of adhering to treaties and their legal obligations in achieving international peace and security in accordance with international law," the spokeswoman said.
China also urged the "peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis," in a statement released by the foreign ministry.
"We are concerned about North Korea's announcement in withdrawing from the NPT and the possible consequences from this action," the statement said.
"We hope to maintain the universality of this treaty and will work hard to promote the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis."