- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

The United States will have to agree to direct talks with North Korea on guaranteeing its security if the Korean nuclear crisis is to be resolved, the chairman of South Korea's parliamentary defense committee said yesterday.
Chang Young-dal, a member of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's Millennium Democratic Party, said in an interview at a Washington hotel that the North was motivated to revive a prohibited nuclear arms program not from strength but from fear.
"At heart, the North would like to have their regime guaranteed," said Mr. Chang, speaking through an interpreter. "I think the actions they have taken lately have come because they fear for their survival, because of the weakness of the regime and the difficult economic conditions.
"At the same time, the United States must be prepared for a comprehensive dialogue with North Korea so a package settlement on the nuclear issue and the Korean Peninsula situation can be resolved in the near future."
Top Bush administration officials are expected to hear a similar message during this week's visit by a top envoy from Mr. Roh, who takes office Feb. 25. Mr. Roh's election campaign saw unprecedented questioning of the U.S.-South Korean security alliance and of the role of some 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in the South.
The visits come as the Pentagon considers boosting its assets in the region to deter any hostile moves by North Korea while the crisis in Iraq plays out.
Defense officials said yesterday that some B-52 bombers, F-16 fighter jets and naval assets have been put on alert and could be sent to Western Asia in the coming days.
The presidential envoy, Chung Dae-chul, met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday and was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and White House officials today.
The envoy is carrying a letter from Mr. Roh calling for a peaceful settlement to the Korean crisis. Mr. Chung said before leaving Seoul that he would argue against imposing sanctions on the North and ask the United States to continue to support the "sunshine policy" of rapprochement with the North pioneered by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.
The standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program, ignited when the North admitted in October that it was violating a 1994 pledge to the United States not to develop nuclear weapons, showed no sign of abating.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, announced plans yesterday to meet on Feb. 12.
The IAEA is likely to refer Pyongyang's behavior to the U.N. Security Council. That opens the door to international sanctions, which North Korea has said it would consider an act of war.
Pyongyang ousted IAEA monitors from a suspect power plant in Yongbyon on Dec. 31 and 10 days later said it was pulling out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
U.S. officials said last week that surveillance satellites had picked up suspicious activity around the Yongbyon site, raising fears that technicians were preparing to convert spent nuclear fuel rods into bomb-grade plutonium.
"I've exhausted all possibilities within my power to bring North Korea into compliance," said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Both he and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said no decision had been made on whether to impose sanctions.
"When we get to the Security Council, we'll see what we propose there," Mr. Boucher said. "But we have not talked about sanctions at this point."
Mr. Chang, chairman of the National Defense Committee in South Korea's National Assembly, said in the interview that news accounts had overstated the level of anti-Americanism behind Mr. Roh's victory.
Tensions during the campaign were sharpened considerably by the acquittal of two U.S. servicemen in a traffic accident that killed two South Korean teenage girls.
"Mr. Roh was very unfamiliar to many in the United States when he was elected," Mr. Chang said. "But when we heard there were concerns in Washington about him, we just laughed. I think he will be able to develop a stronger relationship than ever in the past."
An aide to Mr. Roh has suggested since the election that the South could serve as a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington on security issues. Mr. Chang makes clear that Mr. Roh owes his election to a younger generation of South Koreans who want a "more equal and mature relationship" with Washington.
"There will be a lot of demands on him to represent their views," Mr. Chang said, "and that might be a difficult task."
He said revelations that a 2001 summit between Kim Dae-jung and North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il might was fueled by a $186 million cash payment to the North could cause a small dent in the popularity of the "sunshine policy," but would cause no long-term damage.

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