North Korea leaves nuclear pact
Pyongyang diplomats meet in U.S. with Richardson Friday
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea announced Friday that it is withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but does not intend to produce nuclear weapons, according to a statement from the official North Korean news agency KCNA.
In the United States, New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday prepared for a second round of talks with top diplomats from North Korea. (Full story)
The statement from North Korea on Friday said Pyongyang "declares its total freedom from the binding force of the safeguards accord with the International Atomic Energy Agency."
Despite its pullout from the NPT, North Korea pledged to limit its nuclear activities to "peaceful purposes."
The withdrawal from the nuclear pact has drawn concern from neighboring Asian countries, other international leaders, and a call from France for the United Nations Security Council to address the crisis. (World concern)
The revelation to abandon the NPT prompted the South Korean government to call an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun expressed regret at North Korea's withdrawal from the treaty, his spokesman Lee Nak-yon said Friday, according to the Yonhap news agency.
"Roh had urged North Korea to rescind its decision to resume nuclear facility operations and asked it to at least avoid actions that will further aggravate the situation," Lee was quoted as saying in the Yonhap report.
Meanwhile, in what may be one of the few positive signs in tensions surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear program, two North Korean diplomats will meet again Friday morning with New Mexico's governor.
A spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson said discussions over dinner on Thursday "were cordial but candid."
A senior administration official told CNN that Richardson is expected to pass along a message that the United States may be willing to give assurances in writing that it has no intention of attacking North Korea -- a condition that would only be given if the Communist nation agrees to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. (N. Koreans begin talks in New Mexico)
North Korea's announcement of its withdrawal from the NPT is largely symbolic, as it has recently admitted to be secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Washington also suspects Pyongyang of having one or two nuclear bombs.
In 1968, Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the treaty agreeing not to transfer nuclear weapons to other nations, or to assist or encourage other nations to develop their own nuclear devices.
The treaty went into effect in 1970, and today only four other countries -- Cuba, India, Israel and Pakistan -- are not signatories. (NPT Factbox)
North Korea announced in 1993 that it was withdrawing from the treaty, but later suspended the decision and entered talks with the United States.
Under a separate pact, the 1994 Agreed Framework with the U.S., Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for aid from the United States, Japan and South Korea.
However, North Korea announced in December it was reactivating nuclear facilities frozen under the pact, maintaining it was forced to produce energy after Washington stopped sending fuel shipments to North Korea, which it said was a violation of the agreement.
Washington says it stopped sending the fuel after North Korea disclosed it had a nuclear weapons program in October.