- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The United States yesterday dismissed North Korean assertions that the Korean peninsula was on the verge of war, saying that if such concerns existed, they could result only from Pyongyang's behavior.

Although the Bush administration will not resume bilateral contacts until the North dismantles its nuclear-weapons program, it has given Japan a green light to continue its dialogue with the reclusive state.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the situation after Pyongyang's decision last week to restart a nuclear reactor it shut down eight years ago "difficult" and "dangerous."

But, he said, "the United States has no plans to attack North Korea, and I see no indication that North Korea, however concerned it might be, is taking any action that would suggest we are on the verge of war from them attacking South.

"So if there is any concern about a war, that concern has been raised by North Korea's actions," Mr. Powell said after he and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met with Japan's foreign and defense ministers at the State Department.

The only way to step back from the situation is for North Korea to suspend its uranium-enrichment program, which it first acknowledged in early October, and for the country to reverse its decision to reopen its 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon, Mr. Powell said.

"Then we can determine how to move forward with respect to dialogue," he said. "The United States will not enter into dialogue in response to threats or broken commitments, and we will not bargain or offer inducements for North Korea to live up to the treaties and agreements it has signed."

But in a joint statement after the meeting with the Japanese ministers, the administration said it "reaffirmed" that the United States "has always been open to dialogue in principle," noting that Japan-North Korea talks that started a few months ago "serve as important channels to resolve security issues."

Asked about that obvious difference between U.S. and Japanese policy, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said there were "no fundamental differences" between the two countries. She repeated Mr. Powell's warning that Pyongyang must stop its nuclear activities.

The Bush administration, reluctant to undertake significant steps in its dispute with North Korea before South Korea's presidential election Thursday, is urging its allies and other regional powers to step up diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.

Mr. Powell said the international community, "including Russia, China and the European Union, is united in calling for a denuclearized Korean peninsula." Moscow and Beijing are seen as particularly important because of their influence on Kim Jong-il's regime.

Russia refused to put pressure on North Korea yesterday and said it "will not do so in the future."

"History has shown that pressure on North Korea has pitiful results, rather than solving a problem," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told the Interfax news agency. "We are not going to unite with anyone to pressure North Korea. This is absolutely ruled out."

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the government was reopening a nuclear-power plant and resuming construction of two reactors to compensate for its recent loss of monthly fuel-oil shipments from the United States.

Last month, the U.S.-led Korean Peninsula Development Organization (KEDO) suspended the annual shipment of 500,000 metric tons of oil to the North.

In addition to the heavy fuel oil, the KEDO was building two light-water reactors in Kumho, in the country's northeast, to compensate Pyongyang for closing the power plant, which was believed to be providing fuel for an atomic-weapons program.

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