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Powell: U.S. 'patient' on N. Korea

From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

Powell and Ban, left, met in the U.S. to discuss the recent six-party talks.
Powell and Ban, left, met in the U.S. to discuss the recent six-party talks.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will be "patient" in its goal of disarming North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

"The president strongly believes that a diplomatic solution is possible, and we are not in any urgency to achieve that solution," Powell told reporters Thursday following a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.

Powell's comments were directed at press reports that the United States is losing patience with North Korea and will stop negotiations unless the communist country agrees to scrap its nuclear program for good.

Last month, the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan held a second round of talks in Beijing with North Korea aimed at convincing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

The talks ended without an agreement, but with what the parties called "key differences" between North Korea and the rest of the parties.

The parties, however, cited "progress" because the six countries agreed to "institutionalize" the process by setting up a working group to discuss remaining issues and because they agreed to attempt a third round of talks later this year.

The Bush administration maintains that a major accomplishment of the talks has been the agreement of the United States and its international partners that the goal of the six-party process is the "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear programs, now known in diplomatic circles as "CVID."

Previously, China, South Korea and Russia have called on the United States to show some "flexibility" with North Korea and take steps to engage Pyongyang. North Korea continuously calls on Washington to drop its "hostile" policy toward the North.

"The other members of the group believe as we do that complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's programs must be the policy that we will follow, Powell said Thursday, but added, "We will be patient in pursuing this policy."

Ban, the South Korean foreign minister, said the fact that the parties agreed on CVID and that the six-party process would continue was a "positive result."

Ban told CNN Friday that there was "no doubt" that South Korea and the United States wanted to resolve the North Korea issue peacefully through dialogue.

But North Korea still refuses to admit it has a uranium enrichment program. The United States has said Pyongyang does have such a program.

Powell said eventually the United States would share with North Korea the information it has on Pyongyang's enrichment program within the pending six-party working group meetings.

President Bush has said that once North Korea ends its nuclear program, the United States could take a "bold approach" to Pyongyang, which may include security guarantees and the beginning of a dialogue on better relations.

North Korea has demanded compensation in exchange for scrapping its nuclear programs. China and South Korea have offered North Korea aid once it agrees to CVID.

The United States says it will not pay North Korea to meet its international obligations, but Powell said Thursday that the U.S. delegation made clear to the North Koreans that once CVID has begun, "benefits will accrue" to help Pyongyang out of its current situation.

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