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On Burma (Myanmar) visit, Hillary Clinton highlights North Korea determination

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Burma (Myanmar) to laud democratic reforms there, Burma’s ally, North Korea, proudly claims rapid progress on its nuclear program.

By Donald KirkCorrespondent / November 30, 2011

Local police salute as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's motorcade passes upon her arrival in Naypyidaw, Burma (Myanmar) on Wednesday.

Saul Loeb/Reuters

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Seoul, South Korea

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called today for North Korea to "promote peace, stability, and denuclearization," as the North boasted of “leaping progress" in building a light-water nuclear reactor along with low-enriched uranium.

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Secretary Clinton issued the call in the port city of Pusan on the way to Burma (Myanmar) on a mission to encourage reform of a government that is strongly suspected of planning to build a reactor with North Korean assistance.

The juxtaposition of Ms. Clinton’s plea for North Korea to give up its nukes and Pyongyang's proud claim of rapid progress on the light-water reactor dramatizes American differences with North Korea. 

The North, which has conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, is widely believed to be preparing for a third test.

After issuing a defense of its escalating nuclear program, North Korea renewed its threat to turn the office and residence of South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak into “a sea of fire.”  The use of that phrase was “not empty talk,” according to Radio Pyongyang, but a warning to “refrain from rash acts” – including possibly a South Korean attack on the North.

The posturing from North Korea is seen by some observers as a response to rebuffs from South Korea and the US to resume sending aid to the North as they did before the conservative President Lee began a five-year term in February 2008.

“There is frustration in North Korea,” says Kim Tae-woo, a long-time military analyst who is now president of the Korea Institute for National Unification. “They failed to get food from South Korea. Therefore they have a bellicose attitude.”

Another view is that North Korea is stepping up the rhetoric in hopes of bringing about a renewal of six-party talks “without preconditions” on its nuclear program. The US has supported South Korea’s view that North Korea must begin to make good on its earlier commitments.

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