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Monday
Nov222010

US Calls North Korea's Nuclear Revelation a 'Publicity Stunt'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States Monday called North Korea's decision to unveil a new uranium enrichment program to a group of visiting American scientists a "publicity stunt" and said it will take some time to consult with allies about how to proceed.

"The fact that North Korea invited these scientists to come to Pyongyang and did a show-and-tell, that by itself is valuable information. We'll compare that with other things that we know, and we'll make a formal assessment as to what we think, you know, this capability represents and what the implications are," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

Questions remain, however, about the capability and intentions of North Korea's uranium program, as well as its origins. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested the facility had been unknown to the United States.

"I hadn't known about this specific facility before, but the fact that they were going -- that they wanted their own enrichment capability is not a surprise," Gates said.

On Monday, the State Department spokesman suggested it would not provide further incentives for North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

"We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior," Crowley said. "They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative, and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We're not going to buy into this cycle."

Last week, a team of American scientists, led by Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University, returned from a trip to North Korea during which they were invited to visit a previously undisclosed nuclear facility that North Korea says is capable of enriching uranium.

The North Koreans claim the facility is meant to produce fuel for an electric power plant, but the United States fears it could be used to further Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Gates yesterday expressed doubts about North Korea's intentions.

"I don't credit that at all," he told reporters traveling with him in Bolivia.

In an interview with The New York Times, which first reported the scientists' findings on Saturday, Hecker said he was "stunned" by the sophistication of the facility.

According to the report, North Korea almost certainly received outside help in producing the facility, likely from Pakistan and perhaps also from Iran, which has been pursuing its own uranium enrichment program.

The Obama administration Monday called on North Korea to halt its nuclear program and return to negotiations, but declined to say if it would pursue another round of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.

"We do not at all rule out the possibility of further engagement with North Korea, but we want that to take place under a proper set of conditions and in close coordination with our partners," Bosworth said after meetings in South Korea Monday.

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