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North Korea admits it has nuclear arms

SEOUL -- North Korea publicly admitted today for the first time that it has nuclear weapons, and its foreign ministry said it wouldn't return to six-nation talks aimed at persuading the communist country to abandon its nuclear ambitions

Diplomats have said that North Korea has acknowledged having nuclear arms in private talks, but this is the first time it has said so directly to the public.

''We had already taken the resolute action of pulling out of the (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) and have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever-more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

DPRK refers to the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea's ''nuclear weapons will remain (a) nuclear deterrent for self-defense under any circumstances," the ministry said. ''The present reality proves that only powerful strength can protect justice and truth."

Since 2003, the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan, and Russia have held three rounds of talks in Beijing aimed at persuading the North to abandon nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards. No significant progress has been made.

A fourth round scheduled for September was canceled when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a ''hostile" US policy.

Today's statement came after President Bush started his second term last month by refraining from direct criticism of North Korea -- raising hopes that the North would return to the stalled nuclear talks.

President Bush sent an envoy to China last week to urge a renewed push to get North Korea back to stalled talks, US officials said yesterday. The envoy, Michael Green, an Asian specialist on the National Security Council, carried with him a letter for President Hu Jintao of China, the officials said.

But North Korea said it had little hope for improved ties during Bush's second term office.

''We have wanted the six-party talks, but we are compelled to suspend our participation in the talks for an indefinite period till we have recognized that there is justification for us to attend the talks," the ministry said today.

North Korea said it came to its decision because ''the US disclosed its attempt to topple the political system in the DPRK at any cost, threatening it with a nuclear stick."

Still, North Korea said it retained its ''principled stand to solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations and its ultimate goal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula remain unchanged."

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