- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

BRUSSELS The European Union yesterday followed the United States in pronouncing the 1994 nuclear accord with North Korea invalid because of Pyongyang's admission that it was attempting to make fuel for atomic bombs.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in an interview that it would be "difficult" to pretend the deal, known as the Agreed Framework, could be saved and that all of its provisions should be "reassessed."

In a separate development, North Korea early today refused to meet Washington's demand for an immediate end to its efforts to enrich uranium, a fuel for nuclear weapons. Instead, Pyongyang insisted on negotiations and threatened the United States with "tougher counteraction" if it did not accept talks.

In an interview in Brussels, Mr. Solana said the EU was part of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the international consortium building two modern atomic power plants promised in the Agreed Framework.

"We haven't spent as much [money] as the United States, but we've been contributing to the nonproliferation cause," Mr. Solana said.

The EU is the second KEDO member, after the United States, to call for reassessment of the $4.6 billion project.

Japan and South Korea, which are engaged in bilateral diplomacy with Pyongyang, have been more cautious than Washington and Brussels.

Mr. Solana also said the North Korea problem would be a good opportunity for the United States and its European allies, having been at odds on many issues since President Bush assumed office, to work together on the diplomatic front.

The Bush administration's repeatedly expressed intention in the past few days to treat the reclusive regime of Kim Jong-il differently from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a good start, Mr. Solana said.

Unlike the United States, the EU has diplomatic relations with the North, and the Pyongyang-based European envoys can do more than a U.S. official on a short visit.

Today, Mr. Solana meets in Brussels with John Bolton, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, who is consulting with several governments in Europe and Asia on the next chapter of the North Korean saga.

The Bush administration said the North admitted to covert development of a nuclear weapons capability when confronted with intelligence earlier this month by James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Meeting until the early morning hours today in Pyongyang with South Korean envoys, officials from the North agreed to resolve the issue through dialogue. But they stopped short of agreeing to Washington's demand to suspend all nuclear activities immediately.

"In order to guarantee peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the South and North will actively cooperate in resolving all the issues, including the nuclear issue, through dialogue," said a joint statement carried by pool reports from South Korean journalists, the only foreign reporters allowed to cover the meeting.

Another North Korean statement issued several hours earlier sounded much more terse and hostile.

"If the U.S. persists in its moves to pressurize and stifle [North Korea] by force, the latter will have no option but to take a tougher counteraction," the ruling party daily Rodong Shinmun said in an editorial carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

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