The Bush administration delivered a secret message to North Korea warning it to back down from a promised nuclear test, and it said publicly that the United States would not live with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang government.
North Korea "can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill said in remarks at Johns Hopkins University's U.S.-Korea Institute. It was the toughest response yet from the Bush administration, coming two days after Pyongyang announced plans to conduct its first nuclear test.
Hill did not explain how the administration would respond to a test, but he said it is willing to sit with North Korean officials and diplomats from the region to discuss the crisis. "We will do all we can to dissuade [North Korea] from this test," he said. State Department officials said Hill is considering a trip to Asia to discuss options with key allies.
He said the United States had passed along a private warning through North Korea's diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York.
North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for as many as 11 nuclear bombs. It announced in February that it had succeeded in building a weapon, although intelligence analysts believe it is still years away from being able to deliver one.
[Excerpt of an article by Dafna Linzer, Washington Post]