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Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

U.S., S. Korea discuss North’s nuclear aims

July 31, 2003

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— A senior State Department official discussed North Korea's nuclear threats with South Korean officials Wednesday as Seoul expressed reservations about plans to take the matter to the U.N. Security Council any time soon.

U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton's meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan came amid signs that U.S. efforts to bring North Korea to a negotiating table to find a way to end the communist state's suspected nuclear weapons development were stalling.

Bolton told reporters in Beijing earlier this week that he could not predict when a new round of nuclear talks with North Korea would take place because of Pyongyang's recalcitrance, and suggested that the Security Council might have a role to play in the dispute. But he did not clarify when Washington would take the matter to the Council.

On Wednesday, Bolton and Yoon "agreed that the North Korean issue should be handled in the U.N. Security Council, but what's important is the timing on when the Council deals with the issue," said Oh Joon, a senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official, who briefed reporters on Wednesday's meeting.

"Our view is that we should wait a little bit more since international efforts are focused on finding a way to resume multilateral talks."

Washington had previously pushed for a Security Council statement condemning the North's nuclear ambitions, but those attempts were thwarted by China, North Korea's closest ally. South Korea says it's still too early for the Council to intervene.

North Korea says it will not give up its nuclear ambitions unless the United States agrees to a nonaggression treaty and provides economic aid. It also says the nuclear issue is a bilateral matter, and demands a one-on-one meeting with Washington.

The United States considers the North's nuclear programs a regional threat and has insisted on multilateral talks also including South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

Ban Ki-moon, South Korea's presidential adviser for foreign policy, said North Korea's insistence on a nonaggression treaty made it difficult to open nuclear talks.

North Korea's concerns on security could be addressed by means other than a nonaggression treaty, he said.

Washington ruled out a nonaggression treaty, but has said it may consider less formal security guarantees if North Korea forsakes its nuclear programs.

With China working as an intermediary, Washington has recently proposed to hold three-party talks including North Korea and China, on condition that the meetings will quickly expand to include South Korea, Japan and Russia, Seoul officials said.

Also Wednesday, North Korea's state-run daily Rodong Sinmun condemned annual U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises planned for August, calling them "fraught with increasing danger as they are slated to take place under the touch-and-go situation on the Korean Peninsula."

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