China: U.S. Won't Invade N. Korea

North Korea nuclear weapons atomic radioactive nukes US flag
AP / CBS
The United States, pushing North Korea to end its nuclear program, has "no intention" of invading the communist nation or seeking to overthrow its leader, China's vice foreign minister said Friday after six-country talks on the nuclear stalemate.

"The U.S. said that the U.S. had no intention to threaten North Korea, no intention to invade and attack North Korea, no intention to work for regime change in North Korea," Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference.

Wang also said that all participants agreed on the need for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and "to address the wide-ranging security concerns of North Korea."

He added: "The parties agreed not to take any actions that will escalate the situation as long as discussions proceed."

That reference comes a day after the North said it would prove it had nuclear devices by testing one and by formally declaring itself as a nuclear power, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Delegates from six nations — North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan — concluded three days of talks about Pyongyang's nuclear program earlier Friday after a dispute reportedly broke out between American and North Korean envoys in multilateral talks Thursday.

For months, Pyongyang had insisted on talks to include only itself and Washington, while the U.S. insisted on a multilateral approach. After China's decision to host the event, the North agreed to the six-way talks Washington wanted.

"As long as both parties have political will and sincerity, I believe these issues can be resolved," Wang said. "What is important is to maintain this momentum of dialogue that has not come easily."

But, he acknowledged, "The differences between the two sides are comprehensive. North Korea says the United States poses a great threat. The United States has its own views."

The United States demands that North Korea cease its nuclear ambitions immediately. Pyongyang has indicated it could be open to such an action — but only after the Americans sign a nonaggression treaty and offer aid to the North's impoverished economy.

"It is not the purpose of North Korea to possess nuclear weapons," Wang said. "North Korea also said once the United States changes its North Korean policy and does not threaten it, North Korea may give up its nuclear weapons program and peacefully coexist with the U.S."

Wang's statements echo the rationale North Korea has provided for its pursuit of nuclear arms since the current dispute erupted in October, when North Korea boasted of a project to process plutonium.

The U.S. subsequently cut off fuel shipments. The North responded by kicking out nuclear inspectors, renouncing the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and vowing to reprocess fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium and make nuclear bombs.

North Korea, which faces some 37,000 U.S. troops just across the border in South Korea, has said it feels threatened by Bush administration policies.

When President Bush took office, he suspended for a time talks with North Korea that the Clinton administration conducted, and a year later listed the North as part of the "axis of evil" America confronted.

Only a few months afterward, the administration articulated a doctrine of preemptive war. In a late 2002 review of U.S. nuclear strategy, the White House listed North Korea as one of several states where "contingencies" might develop involving nuclear weapons.

The White House has consistently said it does not intend to invade North Korea, but has resisted Pyongyang's demand for a nonaggression treaty.

Analysts suspect more practical considerations underlie the North Korean approach — that leader Kim Jong Il is forcing a confrontation so as to elicit more aid for his struggling economy.

For its part, North Korea has said it needs nuclear arms for at least one practical reason — to allow it to defend itself while whittling down its costly, million-man army.

The CIA believes North Korea already has enough nuclear material to make one or two weapons, and missiles that could deliver them as far as Alaska and the Hawaiian islands.

North Korea has hinted it has "the bomb" in private meetings and public statements this year. But no formal announcement has been made.

CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin reports the North Koreans have a long history of delivering dire threats. But to formally declare and then to test a nuclear weapon would remove all doubt and run smack into Mr. Bush's vow that he will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea.