WASHINGTON – Rep. Curt Weldon (search) said Tuesday that North Korean officials told him the country's nuclear weapons stockpile as well as its nuclear facilities and materials will be on the bargaining table if negotiations begin with outside countries.
Weldon, commenting at a news conference after returning from Pyongyang, said in the interim North Korea (search) plans to push ahead with production of nuclear arms.
The Pennsylvania Republican said it was important for negotiations to begin quickly. The longer the wait, he said, "the worse it gets."
Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was accompanied to North Korea by other House members.
The United States has been pushing for broad-based negotiations to include Japan, South Korea and China. North Korea prefers direct talks with the United States.
During talks in April in Beijing, North Korea indicated to U.S. and Chinese officials that it would be willing to surrender its nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits.
President Bush and colleagues who attended the Group of Eight (search) summit in France demanded Monday that North Korea "visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs."
On the possibility of changing the government in North Korea, or ousting the leader, Kim Jong Il (search), Weldon said there is no doubt that the United States could achieve that objective.
"The question becomes, what's the price," he said.