- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Major policy divisions in the Russian government on how to deal with North Korea are complicating Washington's efforts to form a united international front that would force Pyongyang to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Although Moscow supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in the last couple of days Russian officials have been critical of the Bush administration's limited approach of putting pressure on Kim Jong-il's reclusive regime.
"There is a huge tug of war within the Russian government," one U.S. official said. "There are many people whose careers depend on integrating North Korea," while Washington's policy is one of isolation and containment.
"We are still at the initial stages of working with the Russians on this, and I'm fairly optimistic we'll be able to bring them on board," the official said.
Russia, along with China, is seen as particularly important in resolving the North Korean issue because of its influence on Pyongyang and President Bush's close relationship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
During Mr. Putin's visit to Beijing two weeks ago, he and Chinese President Jiang Zemin issued a joint statement urging the North to dismantle the uranium-enrichment program it admitted in early October to having developed secretly.
But last week, Pyongyang said that it would "immediately" reopen its five-megawatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, which it shut down eight years ago, and would resume construction of two new reactors.
The Bush administration called the decision "regrettable" and said it would work with its allies and other countries in the region to "put pressure" on North Korea.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Monday "the international community, including Russia, China and the European Union, is united in calling for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula."
But only a few hours earlier, Moscow refused to put pressure on North Korea 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."
Yesterday, Mr. Losyukov was quoted by the same news agency as saying that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov would announce new initiatives to ease the tensions on the peninsula during his visit to Japan this week.
"Russia has an approximate list of proposals," he said. "We are prepared to make such steps and we have instruments no other country has our rather strong contacts with the North Korean leadership."
Even though Mr. Losyukov said that Moscow would not be a mediator between North Korea and the United States, he did speak of Russia as a neutral party in the dispute.
"It's not mediation," he said. "We wouldn't like to cruise between the parties with ultimatums and ask them who blames whom for what. Our job is to create an atmosphere in which these problems could be settled and, using the instruments available to us, to help the parties in the dispute settle mutual claims and concerns."
A senior State Department official brushed aside Mr. Losyukov's remarks, pointing to Moscow's statements calling on North Korea to end its nuclear-weapons program.
"We'll ignore the statements that seem out of line with what Russia has consistently said," the official told reporters.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the United States is working "in concert" with Japan, South Korea, Russia and China "to make certain that we can resolve the situation in North Korea peacefully and diplomatically."
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher declined to comment on reports that China supplied North Korea with a chemical used in producing nuclear-weapons fuel.
He said he could not make a judgment on whether China is helping North Korea's nuclear program "without having to base it on intelligence sources," which he could not do.
Intelligence officials told The Washington Times that a Chinese company in Dalian sent 20 tons of tributyl phosphate to North Korea earlier this month. The chemical is believed to be for North Korea's program to turn spent reactor fuel into weapons-grade material.

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