The White House fired back Monday at critics of its North Korean policy, saying direct talks with the North, which many are urging, would weaken efforts to confront the reclusive country's nuclear ambitions.
J.D. Crouch, the White House's deputy national security adviser, also rejected claims that the North's explosion of a nuclear device on Oct. 9 represented a foreign policy failure for the administration President George W. Bush.
The United States and its allies, he said, are not responsible "for the decisions that are made in Pyongyang. They are. How we will be measured is by how we react to that, how we hold together, or whether we are seen as breaking apart as a result of this."
Crouch said allowing separate talks between the United States and North Korea would eliminate crucial input from the other members of the so-called "six-party talks" - South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
The North's nuclear program, Crouch told a gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, threatens "not just the United States but also the entire world. Other nations with influence in the region should be at the negotiating table."
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