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North Korea reveals a nuclear plant. The US says it's not concerned.

Even though US envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth gave no hint of military escalation, he's gone to Seoul and Tokyo seeking support to deescalate North Korea's nuclear program.

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Bosworth, who served as US ambassador to South Korea during the presidency of the late Kim Dae-Jung, the architect of South Korea’s failed Sunshine policy of reconciliation with the North, arrived here Sunday on a hastily arranged mission.

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Asked whether he believed six-party talks, last held in Beijing in December 2008, were dead, he said, “My crystal ball is foggy,” but “I would never say the process is dead.” Rather, he said, “I would hope we would be able to resuscitate it.”

South Korean officials, however, responded with expressions of despair over the North’s latest nuclear escalation – and hinted at significant increase of defenses.

What ever happened to a 'nuclear-free' Korean peninsula?

South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said he would discuss the option of the US installing tactical nuclear weapons here at a meeting next month of a joint US-South Korean “deterrence policy committee” formed last month with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

That response suggested South Korea’s desire for a reversal of the policy initiated in the 1980s. The US during the presidency of George H.W. Bush is believed to have removed all its nuclear warheads from Korean soil before the signing of an agreement with North Korea in 1990 that purported to guarantee a “nuclear-free” Korean peninsula.

Mr. Kim made talked about US tactical nuclear weapons after a defense ministry spokesman said the report of the North’s nuclear project was of “serious concern” and a foreign ministry spokesman called it ”very grave.”

Bosworth, however, gave no hint of military escalation. Instead, he said the news of the North Korean project was “a disappointment” and “not helpful” in view of previous agreements. That was a reference to the statement that emerged from six-party talks in 2005 for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and two agreements reached in 2007, after the North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, for the North to abide by a carefully defined timetable for getting rid of its entire nuclear program.

“I don’t believe our policy is a failure,” said Bosworth, but it was necessary to “coordinate with the countries of the region.”

Asked whether the US might now be willing to return to six-party talks, as North Korea has indicated it is willing to do, he said, “I do not believe in engagement for the sake of engagement.” Rather, he said, “We have to make progress.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, talked in somewhat tougher terms Sunday, saying North Korea’s nuclear project was “consistent with belligerent behavior” – an attempt to create instability “in a part of the world that is very dangerous.”

Contrived plan?


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