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Seoul seeks compromise on North

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Jan 06,2003
Seoul appears to be refining its strategy for dealing with North Korea's nuclear steps, and there appears to be a new mood of confidence in the air that it can find a way to bridge North Korean demands for a nonaggression treaty with the United States and Washington's position that it will not renegotiate past broken promises by Pyeongyang. Officials here are suggesting that a carefully-knit diplomatic proposal is in the works that would induce the North to say for the second time in less than 10 years that it would scrap its nuclear program. One official suggested that Seoul is paying more attention to the persistent calls for a U.S. commitment not to go to war with the North, although it recognizes that the United States would reject any idea of a legally binding commitment. "A letter," one official here suggested, or something else in written form. Another official echoed the comment, saying there may be "a way to assure Pyeongyang of its security" even if not through a treaty. One official ruled out the possibility of any commitment from Washington that would be endorsed by the U.S. Congress as a reason that a treaty would be out of the question. U.S. President George W. Bush and other senior officials have, however, said repeatedly that they have no intention of attacking North Korea. The officials here agreed, however, that such a step by the United States would have to be preceded, not accompanied, by a North Korean commitment to end its nuclear program. Some private observers in Washington have suggested that any new deal would have to include more intrusive international inspections of Pyeongyang's nuclear programs, including investigations to determine North Korean researchers' past activities. Those intrusive inspections were sidestepped in 1994 when the United States and North Korea signed an agreement that deferred them until nuclear components were ready for two nuclear power reactors an international consortium is building in the North. In Beijing, the North's ambassador, Choe Jin-su, called on the United States yesterday to talk with the North with no preconditions. Seoul and Washington also announced yesterday that a regular meeting of Japanese, American and Korean officials will be held in Washington on Tuesday. Officials here refused to talk about the possibility of sanctions against the North, saying that the continued diplomatic pressure on the North is not likely to include a suspension of construction at the international consortium's site on North Korea's east coast. Leaders of that group, from Japan, the United States, Korea and the European Union, will meet this month to consider its next steps. In November, the consortium's members agreed to suspend shipments of heavy fuel oil to North Korea, which sparked threats by Pyeongyang to reactivate its facility to recover weapons-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. Vacationing in Texas, U.S. President George W. Bush reiterated for the second day in a row that there could be a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, but he did not hide his contempt for North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, whom he accused of starving his people.
by Kim Young-sae
January 04, 2003




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