- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

The United States urged North Korea yesterday to replace surveillance gear it dismantled at one of its nuclear plants and refrain from restarting the reactor.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell discussed the situation over the weekend with top officials from China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.
"The international community had been reaching out to North Korea to try to assist it in dealing with its severe poverty and other serious problems," State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said.
"That effort has been undermined by North Korea's pursuit of a covert nuclear program and its latest actions."
A leading Democratic senator said that the United States faces more of a threat from North Korea's nuclear plants than from Iraq's weapons programs.
"This is a greater danger immediately to U.S. interests at this very moment, in my view, than Saddam Hussein is," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"If they lift the seals on these canisters [at the plant], they're going to be able to build four to five additional nuclear weapons within months if they begin that reprocessing operation," Mr. Biden told "Fox News Sunday."
North Korea on Saturday disabled the surveillance equipment installed by the United Nations at a reactor in Yongbyon, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Mr. Fintor urged North Korea to respond to repeated requests by the U.N. nuclear agency "to consult on arrangements for safeguarding" the facilities at Yongbyon and allow the agency to replace or restore the seals and cameras.
North Korea acknowledged Oct. 4 that it had a uranium-enrichment program aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.
President Bush later halted oil shipments by the United States to the energy-poor country. In response, the North Koreans said that they would restart nuclear-energy facilities shut down as part of a 1994 disarmament pact.
North Korea's official news agency said yesterday that the government began removing the equipment because the U.N. agency was "whiling away time after proposing what it called working negotiations."
Under the 1994 agreement, North Korea pledged to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for international aid to build two power-producing nuclear reactors.
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," Mr. Fintor said.
But Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the administration must engage North Korea.
"We cannot take an attitude, I believe, in which we just simply say they are wrong that is, the North Koreans we're not going to talk until they do some things right," he said. "We're all going to have to talk, talk continuously to South Korea, to North Korea, to Japan, be heavily engaged."
The United States has threatened war if Iraq does not disarm, but has taken a less hostile approach with North Korea.

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