U.S. Course with North Korea Remains Multilateral, Rice Says

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - North Korea’s reported underground nuclear test October 7 has rattled the world, but the United States intends to deal with the challenge via a multilateral approach, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A 4.2-magnitude seismic event occurred about 385 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang, North Korea on the morning of October 9. North Korea claims it performed a successful test of a nuclear weapon, but sufficient data to verify that claim are not yet available. President Bush has called the test a threat to international peace and security. (See related article.)

In a series of interviews with American television networks October 10, Rice said the United States is not the only country that cannot tolerate a nuclear North Korea.

International condemnation of the test is important, the secretary said on ABC’s World News Tonight.  But more important, she said, is the "condemnation and urgency and action from states that have real leverage - states like China and South Korea, that can put at risk a lot of what North Korea survives on.” (See related article.)

China, Rice said on Fox News, is a principal source of funding for North Korea.  "And so, the Chinese, in cutting off assistance (to Pyongyang) can certainly make it more difficult on the regime.”

Rice said China is “certainly willing to have sanctions of some kind. … I don’t know how far they will go, but the North Koreans have certainly put at risk their most important assistance from their most important partner.”

In response to public comment that the Bush administration should engage in direct talks with the government in Pyongyang, Rice said North Korean officials have had “plenty of chances to talk to us.  In fact, they’ve talked to us bilaterally within the context of the Six-Party Talks.”

“It’s not the absence of talking that’s the problem,” Rice told CBS’s 60 Minutes, “it’s the absence of results.  And indeed, if you’re not careful, what you do is you substitute talking for results.”

Rice reiterated President Bush’s oft-repeated statement that the United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea, but she added:  “The president never takes any of his options off the table.”

The secretary noted that Pyongyang signed a declaration of principles on September 19, 2005, in which it promised to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  If North Korea would fulfill its commitment, she said, it would be “an entry point into the international system.  (See related article.)

“That’s still available,” Rice said, “but for now the international community is going to pursue the sanctions route in the [U.N.] Security Council.”

Rice also expressed concern over the possibility that North Korea might transfer dangerous technology to terrorists.  The international community, she said, can use international law to try to stop transfers of dangerous technologies from North Korea.  The Proliferation Security Initiative, she said, exists to interdict such potentially dangerous cargo.

“So we have many other arrows in our quiver short of military force,” she said.

Transcripts of Secretary Rice’s interviews are available on the State Department Web site:

Interview with Brit Hume of Fox News,

Interview with Katie Couric of CBS’s 60 Minutes,

Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN , and

Interview with Charles Gibson of ABC's World News Tonight.

For more on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and The Proliferation Security Initiative (PDF, 4 pages).