- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell repeatedly said yesterday that war was not imminent with North Korea over the Stalinist nation's nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Powell told several television talk shows yesterday the United States was seeking to defuse a manageable situation.
"We have a very serious situation which we are treating as a serious situation," he told CNN's "Late Edition," but he added that "we are not bringing [the military option] up to the front because there's not it's not necessary to do so."
"It is not yet a crisis that requires mobilization or for us to be threatening North Korea," he said.
On CBS' "Face the Nation," he said, "Nobody is mobilizing armies; nobody's threatening each other yet." He told ABC's "This Week" that "there are no forces being put on alert on either side."
And on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said that "we are not planning a pre-emptive strike" and that "we are not trying to create a crisis atmosphere by threatening North Korea."
Last week, North Korea reopened a plutonium processing plant and announced that it would expel U.N. inspectors within the week.
Mr. Powell said North Korea already is paying a price for its actions through political and diplomatic penalties, citing Japan's withdrawal of an economic-aid package for Pyongyang.
Some Democratic lawmakers, however, say the situation is indeed a crisis, despite what Mr. Powell said.
In response to Mr. Powell's interview with CNN, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said, "It's a crisis because, clearly, it's a critical part of our foreign policy in Asia and on the Korean Peninsula that North Korea not become a greater nuclear power."
The policy the Bush administration has followed so far, he said, "has made a difficult situation into a dangerous one."
Mr. Lieberman said the Bush administration "dropped the ball" by cutting off fuel shipments to North Korea under a 1994 agreement.
That agreement provided North Korea with hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel, as well as help in building two modern nuclear reactors from which it would be difficult to produce fissile material to make a weapon. The famine-stricken country has also been receiving international food aid.
"In return for the fuel," Mr. Lieberman said, North Korea "would stop this nuclear power plant producing plutonium. We stopped the fuel. They started up the plutonium plant."
The Bush administration contends that the fuel shipments were stopped because Pyongyang was continuing to develop its nuclear weapons program in violation of the 1994 agreement.
Mr. Lieberman said the proper response to the situation would be face-to-face talks with the North Koreans, in which the United States would say, "'Listen, this is serious. The military option against you was always on the table, but let's talk.'"
Outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, also used the term "crisis" to refer to the nuclear dispute with North Korea.
He told NBC yesterday that North Korea poses a more immediate danger than Iraq because of Pyongyang's rejection of inspectors and its much greater nuclear potential.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and incoming Foreign Relations chairman, agreed with his colleagues that the situation was indeed "a crisis" yesterday on "Meet the Press."
"We should not be too confident the North Koreans may not adopt other such strategies, as perhaps missile shoots or various other provocative actions. If their intent is to get the world's attention, they can do some other things."
Mr. Powell remained steadfast in his insistence yesterday that the situation is not a crisis and that patience is the best route.
"This present situation really has just unfolded in the last six months," he told ABC. "I think it's going to play out in the weeks and months ahead."
Mr. Powell has come under fire from critics who say the United States should be talking directly with North Korean leaders.
Mr. Powell said he spoke to the foreign minister of North Korea in late July in Brunei and Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly went to North Korea in early October "to begin a dialogue and to let them know that, if they would stop this kind of behavior, then benefits awaited them," he said on CBS.
He said face-to-face talks were not necessary and would only reward North Korea.
"We cannot suddenly say, 'Gee, we're so scared. Let's have a negotiation because we want to appease your misbehavior.' This kind of action cannot be rewarded," he said on NBC.
"We have channels open," Mr. Powell said. "We have ways of communicating with the North Koreans. They know how to contact us."
He said the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet around Jan. 6 to consider North Korea's actions.
"The [agencys] board of governors at that time will make a judgment as to whether or not they will report these actions to the United Nations," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Lugar said the U.N. Security Council is a viable tool with dealing with North Korea, one that Mr. Bush revived in working with Iraq.
The Korean situation is not a new one, Mr. Powell said. The United States has been aware for some time that North Korea possesses two nuclear weapons.
Nor is this situation a problem for only the United States. Mr. Powell said on "Face the Nation" that the European Union has said this is a problem between North Korea and the whole world.
Mr. Powell said that no matter what, the United States will not appease North Korea.
"We can't appease them. I mean wrong lessons will be drawn from us stepping forward and saying, 'We are so concerned and afraid of this that we will do whatever it takes, whatever you ask us,'" Mr. Powell said on "Fox News Sunday."
"This is what we saw in the past. They created the same situation in 1994 we have to do it right this time."

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