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U.S. calls N. Korea remarks 'blackmail'

Delegate: Nations agreed peninsula should be nuclear-free

North Korean delegation leader Kim Yong Il leaves the Beijing talks.
North Korean delegation leader Kim Yong Il leaves the Beijing talks.

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- After six nations completed talks in Beijing over the Korean nuclear crisis, the Bush administration harshly criticized North Korea and made clear that it doesn't intend to bargain for peace.

Joanne Prokopowicz, a spokeswoman for the State Department, spoke Friday from prepared remarks, saying North Korea's statement to negotiators in Beijing was "an explicit acknowledgment" that North Korea "has nuclear weapons, but the U.S. will not respond to threats or give in to blackmail."

She said Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, China and Russia on Friday after the end of three days of talks in Beijing aimed at ending the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Although no official communique was issued after the meeting, all nations agreed that the peninsula should be nuclear-free.

South Korea said the participants had agreed in principle to meet again on the nuclear crisis without saying when or where. The crisis emerged in October, when Pyongyang acknowledged a covert weapons program.

Although the talks between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan appeared to go as smoothly as could be expected, U.S. officials say North Korea raised the stakes by saying it was prepared to publicly declare itself a nuclear power and might test some nuclear weapons. (Full story)

"North Korea's threats are not a surprise," Prokopowicz said. "They have a long history of provocative statements, and these remarks echo the message delivered to us in April. These threats only serve to further isolate North Korea from the international community."

Pyongyang repeated earlier assertions that it was forced to go nuclear because of the "hostile policy" of the United States. The North's demands include a formal nonaggression treaty, but Washington has

said Pyongyang must dismantle its nuclear weapons program before it makes any move.

Although North Korea put forward a "package of solutions" at the opening of the talks, it warned that future negotiations might be in jeopardy because of what it regards as U.S. intransigence.

"If the United States continues to demand we drop the nuclear program first and ignores our appropriate proposals, we have no choice but to beef up our nuclear deterrent power," a North Korean statement said. (Full text)

During the talks, Prokopowicz said the U.S. delegation made clear "we seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution and have no intent to invade North Korea.

"We are pleased that at the meeting a consensus developed that the multilateral process can advance us to the goal of a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem," she said.

"One of the benefits" of the multilateral forum, Prokopowicz said, is that it "gave North Korea no opportunity to provide mixed messages to the concerned parties."

U.S. administration officials told CNN that Washington is "pleased by the outcome" of the talks but is "by no means triumphant.

"We have a long, long way to go," one official said. (Full story)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who headed the U.S. delegation, gave no indication of any shift in Washington's stance.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi put a positive spin on the meetings, telling reporters the parties had agreed that the Korean peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons.

"At the same time, the parties have all become aware of the fact that there is a need to consider and address the concerns of [North Korea] in a wide range of areas, including the security concerns," Wang said.

A Japanese foreign ministry official praised the North Korean delegation as engaged and sincere.

"We did not sense any unproductive approach on the part of the North Korean delegation over the 2 1/2 days," he said.

The official added that nothing the North Koreans revealed during the talks set off any alarm bells.

"If you are asking whether what we heard scared us enough to go back to Tokyo and hide behind a bed," he said, "no, there was no such statement."

-- CNN senior Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy and senior executive producer Richard Griffiths in Beijing contributed to this report.

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