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North Korea Answers U.N. by Ousting Nuclear Inspectors, Condemning Six-Party Talks

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North Korea vowed Tuesday to restore its nuclear facilities and boycott international talks on its atomic weapons program to protest the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of the country's rocket launch. Video by AP

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By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TOKYO, April 14 -- Fuming at the U.N. Security Council for condemning its missile launch, North Korea ordered U.N. nuclear inspectors out of the country on Tuesday, said it will restart its plutonium factory and vowed never to participate again in six-country nuclear negotiations.

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In response, the White House called on North Korea to "cease its provocative threats" and honor its commitments.

North Korea had warned before launching a long-range missile on April 5 that it would tolerate no U.N. criticism of what it insisted was a peaceful attempt to put a satellite into orbit. When the 15-member Security Council unanimously condemned that launch on Monday and demanded a halt to future missile launches, the North's reaction was swift and vitriolic.

It called the Security Council's statement "brigandish," "wanton" and "unjust." It said six-party nuclear talks with the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China had "turned into a platform" for forcing the North to disarm and for bringing down its system of government.

"We have no choice but to further strengthen our nuclear deterrent to cope with additional military threats by hostile forces," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released by the state news agency.

But analysts in Seoul said North Korea appeared to be up to its familiar tactic of brinkmanship -- creating a crisis in order to be rewarded for helping to solve it.

"North Korea can use today's walkout as a negotiating chip with the United States in the future," said Koh Yu-whan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

In Vienna, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea had ordered the agency to remove all its inspectors and surveillance equipment from the plant in Yongbyon where the North Koreans previously processed bomb-grade plutonium. North Korea has kicked out the inspectors a number of times in the past, including in 2002 and 2008, precipitating a diplomatic crisis on each occasion.

If it follows through on Tuesday's bluster, North Korea will walk away from six years of slow and fitful but sometimes productive negotiations that have led to substantial disablement of its Yongbyon reactor and partial disclosure of the scale of its weapons program.

The talks, in turn, have rewarded the government of Kim Jong Il with food, fuel and removal from a U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The Obama administration has said it wants to resume the talks, which stalled last year in a dispute about how to verify the North's past nuclear activity.

That activity, judging from the North's statement Tuesday, may soon increase.

"We will actively consider building our own light-water nuclear reactor, will revive nuclear facilities and reprocess used nuclear fuel rods," the ministry said, though international experts have said the North does not have the equipment or skills to make an advanced light-water reactor.


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