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US, South Korea skeptical of North Korea's nuclear offer

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Washington was skeptical. “We’ve seen a string of broken promises by North Korea going back many, many years,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. “We’ll be guided by what North Korea does, not what it says it might do under certain circumstances.”

Beijing, which has been urging a resumption of six-nation talks, was studiedly neutral. North Korea “must allow IAEA inspectors in” under the terms of a 2005 agreement that Pyongyang signed, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. North Korea expelled inspectors for the second time last year.

Independent analysts are even more dubious. “North Korea has made a strategic decision to possess nuclear weapons,” argues Cai Jian, a Korea expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. “They just want to buy time to enhance their nuclear power and put more cards in their hand.”

Pyongyang’s offer to sell 12,000 fresh fuel rods, enough to build eight to 10 nuclear bombs, recalls a similar proposal two years ago, says Kim Tae-woo, deputy head of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a think tank in Seoul.

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