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N. Korea 'admits having nukes'

A South Korean soldier watches during a military exercise Thursday near the Demilitarized Zone, in Chulwon, north of Seoul.
A South Korean soldier watches during a military exercise Thursday near the Demilitarized Zone, in Chulwon, north of Seoul.

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CNN's Jaime FlorCruz reports on the opening of U.S.-North Korean talks in Beijing, China.
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Optimism wanes among some South Koreans. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- American and North Korean delegations have had separate meetings Friday morning with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhao Xing, followed by a brief "trilateral" meeting among all the parties, the U.S. Embassy says.

No information was released on a date for a future round of talks among the three parties, designed to diffuse a controversy over North Korea's alleged nuclear program.

North Korea on Thursday admitted to having at least one nuclear bomb, senior Bush administration sources told CNN.

North Korea's representative Li Gun pulled aside U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly on Wednesday and told him "blatantly and boldly" that the country has at least one nuclear weapon, one official said.

Li then asked, "Now what are you going to do about it?" the official said.

The North Korean representative said his country would "prove" it has the weapon "soon," implying that North Korea may test a nuclear bomb, though he did not explicitly threaten that, a source said.

He said it was up to the United States to determine whether there is a "physical demonstration" of such a weapon, said a senior administration official.

Pyongyang would consider dismantling its nuclear weapons program if the United States provides a written assurance that it will not attack North Korea, Gun said according to one source.

However, Li said it is not possible to dismantle a nuclear bomb, the source told CNN.

In an interview with NBC News Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush was not asked about the reports North Korea has a nuclear weapon, but he did say Pyongyang is "back to the old blackmail game."

He said the United States would continue to work with Japan, South Korea, China and others "to say to the North Koreans and the world that we're not going to be threatened."

A South Korean government spokeswoman told CNN that South Korea currently has no official position on the news report that North Korea has a nuclear weapon.

The South Korean government is talking to the United States and will have a statement ready on the subject in the coming hours.

In the past, North Korean officials have privately told U.S. officials that they have a nuclear weapons program, but they did not declare having any nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence has indicated for some time that North Korea has nuclear weapons, including one capable of hitting the western United States. But North Korea has publicly denied the claim.

"This proves what the administration has been saying all along," a senior administration official told CNN, "that North Korea has at least one nuclear bomb."

U.S. officials have in the past accused North Korea of trying to blackmail the United States into making concessions. Pyongyang also has a history of bluffing, U.S. officials say.

In a statement carried Thursday on the North Korean state news agency, KCNA, Pyongyang said the war in Iraq shows that U.S. demands for disarmament are a pretext for war, and "teaches all the sovereign states the lesson that there should be only a strong physical deterrent force to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation."

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a war may break out any moment due to the U.S. moves," the statement said.

It also said the "master key" to progress was for Washington to make a "bold switchover" in its policy toward North Korea.

The statement, which referred to the Beijing talks, appeared to be a hardening of Pyongyang's long-standing position seeking some kind of security guarantee from the United States before it will talk about dismantling its nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to U.S. officials last week discussing the possibility of "regime change" in North Korea, but the United States has said repeatedly it has no plans to launch military action.

'Not intimidated'

Still, Powell said North Korea should not leave the Beijing discussions "with the slightest impression that the United States and its partners and the nations in the region will be intimidated by bellicose statements or by threats or actions that they think might get them more attention or might force us to make a concession that we would not otherwise make.

"They would be very ill-advised to move in that direction," he said. "The one thing that is absolutely clear as a result of this meeting is that there is unity within the community that we must not allow the [Korean] Peninsula to become nuclear.

"It is the strong view of the Chinese government, and of course of the United States, Japan, South Korea and of Russia, Australia and others in the region. North Korea must come to understand this."

The Beijing meetings, which began Wednesday, were the first between the U.S. and North Korea since last October, when Washington said North Korean officials admitted to them that they were pursuing an active nuclear weapons program in violation of international agreements.

North Korea denies any such admission took place and said the United States is using its accusation as an excuse to justify military action. Kelly was the same U.S. official who confronted Pyongyang about its nuclear program in the fall.

-- CNN Correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver contributed to this story

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