WASHINGTON – The United States will consult with its allies about what kind of security assurances they can offer North Korea to get the communist country to end its nuclear weapons program, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
During recent six-nation talks in Beijing, North Korea said it would disarm if the United States would resume free oil shipments, provide economic and humanitarian aid, sign a nonaggression treaty and open diplomatic ties.
"Right now, the first challenge before us is to get North Korea to say clearly that they are prepared to give up entirely their nuclear weapons program in a verifiable manner," Powell told "ABC's "This Week."
"And we know that they want from us — the only thing they have asked for from us, the United States, is some sort of security assurance," he said.
Powell said that other issues, such as economic aid, that the North has raised with other countries "might be done as we move down this road. That's not on the table right now."
For Powell, "Step one is an end to their program in a verifiable way — their commitment to an end to that program. It won't be ended in one meeting or with one statement. It's going to take time."
Powell was asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about a reported comment by a top State Department official, Assistant Secretary of State John Bolton, that U.S. policy was to end North Korea as it currently is constituted.
"Our policy is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Powell said. "It's also the policy of all those participating in the six-party talks" in China.
"We know the kind of regime this is. We know about the prison camps it keeps. We know about its trafficking in drugs, its trafficking in counterfeit currency. This is not a regime to be admired in any way.
"But our policy right now is not to invade or to overthrow it, but right now our policy is the denuclearization of the peninsula."
The three days of discussions in Beijing drew delegations from China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, besides the United States and North Korea.
"We will have to make a judgment with our allies, over the next few weeks, before the next meeting, as to what kind of security assurance would be satisfactory for all of us to provide to the North Koreans so that they would feel comfortable in taking this step," Powell said.
North Korea is believed to have at least one or two nuclear weapons but could have five or six more in a matter of months. The United States also is concerned about North Korea's penchant for exporting missile technology and weapons of mass destruction or their components.
The Beijing talks were sure to have driven home to the North Koreans their isolation brought about by their nuclear policy, President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on "Fox News Sunday."
"What you had out of that was five states that were unified in their view that the North Koreans have got to give up their program, their nuclear program, if they ever hope to enter the international community of states," Rice said.