WASHINGTON – North Korea threatened during talks in Beijing to export nuclear arms and to add to its arsenal, The Washington Times reported on Wednesday.
Citing U.S. officials familiar with the talks, the newspaper’s report said North Korea’s negotiator, Li Gun, made the threat during a side meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.
Li, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official, told Kelly that Pyongyang will “export nuclear weapons, add to its current arsenal or test a nuclear device,” one administration official told The Times.
“This was clearly a threat,” said another official described as being familiar with reports of the three-way talks among the United States, China and North Korea.
The Washington Times reported that the North Koreans also said that they had nearly finished reprocessing thousands of spent fuel rods that can be used to make atomic bombs.
North Korea’s Li reportedly said the course that Pyongyang takes would depend on how the United States responds to its overtures. Kelly rejected the words as a threat and thus unacceptable, The Washington Times reported.
On Monday, a White House spokesman said the Bush administration was concerned about North Korea either possessing or selling nuclear materials but denied a reported shift in policy for dealing with the threat.
“Our position remains the same,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. “The United States as well as the international community is concerned about North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and potentially transferring nuclear materials to others.”
The New York Times reported on Monday that the Bush administration was shifting from a decade-old policy of preventing North Korea from producing nuclear weapons to working to block it from exporting weapons-grade nuclear materials.