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Gates says US won't accept a North Korea with atomic bombs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North Korea.

A North Korean mock Scud-B missile, center, and other South Korean mock missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, July 4, 2009. North Korea fired five ballistic missiles off its eastern coast Saturday, South Korea said, a violation of U.N. resolutions and an apparent message of defiance to the United States on its Independence Day. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will never accept a nuclear North Korea.

He says the communist regime poses threats "even more lethal and destabilizing" than before. The Pentagon chief is in South Korea for annual defense ministers' talks.

Gates also says the North's nuclear program is a serious security challenge not only on the Korean peninsula, "but for the region as a whole."

Gates describes impoverished North Korea as a "serious proliferation threat." He says the regime seems to be willing to sell "everything" it makes.

In a separate interview in Seoul, the chief of the U.S. Pacific Command says North Korea "needs to be watched very closely." But Adm. Robert F. Willard also stressed diplomacy's role.

North Korea is believed to have enough weapons grade plutonium for at least a half-dozen bombs.

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