- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The United States said Thursday sanctions are not being considered against North Korea, despite the International Atomic Energy Agency's declaration Pyongyang is in non-compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

When asked if Washington was seeking sanctions against Pyongyang after the nuclear watchdog Wednesday found North Korea in non-compliance with the NPT, Richard Williamson, deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said no.

"It's not an issue right now," said Williamson, the alternate U.S. representative for special political affairs.

He said the matter would first go to the Security Council before it is considered.

"We are waiting for the IAEA to get its resolution referred to the Security Council president and we expect that soon and we'll deal with it in a systematic manner and diplomatically," he said.

The IAEA board of governors Wednesday declared North Korea in "non-compliance with its obligations" under the Safeguards Agreement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible action. Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, said North Korea brought the action on itself because, of the outstanding issues.

"None of the other issues could be addressed by way of blackmail," ElBaradei said, alluding to Pyongyang's threats of retaliation for any council-imposed sanctions. "The first step has to be a compliance with non-proliferation obligations and then all the other solutions will follow."

Williamson said Thursday the United States would continue to work towards a diplomatic solution.

"We are pleased the IAEA acted and we look forward to discussing and working the issue diplomatically here as the United States has been doing in the region for many weeks now," he said.

Washington, South Korea, Japan and China have been engaged in talks to resolve the issue.

Asked if the United States was seeking consultations "pretty quickly," he said: "We'll be busy with our colleagues about that."

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov Wednesday called the IAEA decision "unproductive."

Also Wednesday, China's ambassador, Wang Yingfan, said: "We have to handle this. That's our responsibility. But how to, and when, I think we need some consultation among the council members."

First, Security Council President Gunter Pleuger, the German ambassador, was awaiting official notification of the IAEA's Board of Governors' decision on Wednesday before putting North Korea on the panel's already crowded schedule.

The council was hearing a regular report on the situation in the Middle East and a report on humanitarian contingency planning in case of an Iraq war Thursday. It will take up Iraq again Friday when Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector and executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission will present his latest report with ElBaradei who was also scheduled to visit.

The council will revisit Iraq on Tuesday and again possibly Wednesday when all members of the United Nations will be allowed to address the 15-member council.

The crisis with North Korea began last October when the United States announced it had presented Pyongyang with evidence it was pursuing a program to enrich uranium, a critical first step to developing nuclear weapons. As a result, the Bush administration cut off the heavy-fuel shipments it had agreed in 1994 to supply Pyongyang until the international community finished building North Korea two light-water reactors.

In return for the shipments and reactors, North Korea agreed to shut down another nuclear program, one that could lead to plutonium-based nuclear weapons.

In December, North Korea removed monitoring devices for that mothballed program and asked IAEA inspectors to leave the country. Satellite imagery and other evidence indicates North Korea has since restarted its plutonium program — specifically, a reactor at the Yongbyon research site that Pyongyang says is for electricity to replace the fuel oil shipments.

But that reactor is less than one-tenth the size that nuclear experts say can generate a practical amount of electricity.

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