The United States is warning North Korea against converting its spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.
The warning came Friday after newspapers published reports quoting Bush administration sources as saying American spy satellites have detected what appear to be trucks moving North Korea's stockpile of nuclear fuel rods out of storage. The New York Times and Washington Post quote unnamed officials as saying they believe the activity could be a first step in a North Korean move to produce nuclear weapons.
A White House spokesman said Friday the administration will consider any such move as another provocative action intended to intimidate and blackmail the international community. He said the activity will further isolate North Korea.
Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, told reporters in Vienna he has given the agency's board of governors a report certifying that North Korea is not complying with the nuclear safeguards treaty. He said he wants the board to ask the United Nations Security Council to take up the matter.
North Korea said again Friday it will negotiate only with the United States to end the standoff over its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea has warned the Security Council not to get involved. Pyongyang has said any move to impose sanctions would be considered an act of war.
U-S officials say North Korea has acknowledged having a nuclear weapons program, in violation of the safeguards treaty and a 1994 agreement with Washington.
Pyongyang has called for the United States to sign a non-aggression treaty, saying this is the only way to solve the nuclear crisis. Washington has rejected such a pact, but has said it has no intention of attacking North Korea.