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White House Dismisses Idea Of Direct Talks With North Korea

Bush and other U.S. officials have repeatedly said they have no plans to attack or invade North Korea. But three years ago Bush labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" that included Iran and Iraq, a country the United States later invaded.

In his inaugural speech last month, Bush said he will push to eliminate tyranny around the world -- and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in her confirmation hearings that North Korea is an "outpost of tyranny." North Korea's statement declaring it will leave the talks linked the two remarks.

South Korean protesters in Seoul denounce North Korea's possession of nuclear arms. Pyongyang is said to seek one-on-one talks with Washington. (Kim Kyung Hoon -- Reuters)

_____White House Reaction_____
Peter Baker Video: The Washington Post's Peter Baker discusses the White House's rejection of North Korea's proposed bilateral discussion on nuclear arms.
_____Nuclear Path_____
An overview of North Korea's current nuclear and missile capabilities and a chronology of events and diplomacy since 2001.
_____N. Korea's Statement_____
Full Text: The full statement by North Korea's foreign ministry on its nuclear program, as released in English by the North Korean news agency KCNA.
_____World Opinion_____
Nuclear North Korea Is 'Crisis From Hell,' by Jefferson Morley
_____More Coverage_____
N. Korea Declaration Draws World Concern (The Washington Post, Feb 11, 2005)
In Pyongyang, Raising the Ante (The Washington Post, Feb 11, 2005)

Asian officials conceded that the North's declaration seriously complicated the already stalled talks, and that disarming the North would be far more difficult. "There's no doubt that there are new questions about North Korea's intentions now," said an Asian diplomat.

Another Asian official said the predominant view in his government is that this is a negotiating ploy, particularly because North Korea's negotiating partners had made it clear Pyongyang needed to make a counteroffer to the U.S. proposal. But he said there is a minority view that North Korea will not give up its weapons and thus a change in tactics is necessary.

This official said the North Korean announcement might offer a silver lining, because it was clear the "six-party talks were getting a little stale" and a fresh approach was needed. Eight months have passed since the last meeting, and only three sessions have taken place, with little apparent progress.

Many in the region turned their attention to China, which enjoys leverage over North Korea because it supplies the country's feeble economy with critical food and fuel shipments. Until now, China has insisted it was not clear whether its communist ally had developed nuclear weapons.

Diplomats involved in the talks said China has been reluctant to pressure North Korea, instead offering incentives to Pyongyang to keep negotiating.

Pan reported from Beijing. Correspondent Anthony Faiola in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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