WASHINGTON (Talon News) — North Korean officials have indicated to the U.S. that they have completed reprocessing of spent fuel rods used in nuclear power generation. This claim has sparked statements of concern from state department officials who say that the only purpose of reprocessing is for “harvesting plutonium to make weapons.”

“There is no other legitimate use that North Korea has for plutonium that they would get in this manner, and it’s a clear — reprocessing in itself would be a clear indication of — that North Korea is bent on enlarging its nuclear arsenal,” State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said in his Tuesday press briefing.

Boucher said that the U.S. continues to pursue a path to secure the “verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.” Boucher added that the U.S. will not submit to “blackmail” nor offer any “incentives or inducements” for North Korea to “stop something they never should have started to begin with.”

“North Korea faces a choice of two paths,” Boucher said. “It can offend the entire international community by continuing to pursue its nuclear ambitions. That will only lead them to isolation and to a deteriorating situation for the regime in Pyongyang. Or they can end these programs verifiably and irreversibly. And we have made clear that we are prepared to talk to North Korea about a better path that could be followed if it were prepared to do that.”

Boucher indicated that North Korea’s ongoing actions to produce nuclear weapons have led them to become “increasingly isolated.” According to Boucher, the consequences for North Korea are appearing in terms of their economic prospects.

“And so as North Korea has proceeded down this road, it has found itself further and further isolated,” Boucher said. “And for it to undertake further steps in terms of developing this nuclear program could only lead to more isolation.”

Boucher noted that the “entire world” has said it’s unacceptable for North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, and the consequences of that are evident every day.

In addressing the North Korea nuclear situation, the U.S. seeks a multilateral dialogue which includes South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as the United States and North Korea. North Korea is demanding a bilateral approach to negotiations involving only U.S. officials.

When asked if North Korea posed an “imminent threat” to the United States, Boucher would not characterize the level of danger.

“I think I want to characterize the fact that there is no confirmation yet that these statements are true. And to that extent, it’s not time to start characterizing levels of danger about things that may or may not have occurred,” Boucher said.

In Tuesday’s edition of the Washington Post, former Secretary of Defense William Perry said that he thinks the U.S. is “losing control” of the situation with North Korea. “The nuclear program now underway in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities,” Perry told the Post.

“My theory is the reason we don’t have a policy on this, and we aren’t negotiating, is the president himself,” Perry said in the Post interview. “I think he has come to the conclusion that Kim Jong Il is evil and loathsome and it is immoral to negotiate with him.”

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