- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

The U.N. nuclear agency yesterday declared North Korea in "noncompliance" with its international treaty obligations and sent the matter to the Security Council for consideration.
The decision, which had been sought by the United States, was likely to infuriate Pyongyang even though International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials said there was no immediate interest in imposing economic sanctions on the reclusive state.
The Bush administration promptly welcomed the resolution, adopted at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, with 31 of 35 votes.
"We anticipate that the president of the Security Council will call for consultations on the issue, but it is premature to speculate on what the council may do," a State Department official said after the decision yesterday.
The U.S. representative to the IAEA, Kenneth Brill, said that "the time is right for the Security Council to begin considering this issue" because Pyongyang's "nuclear-weapons program poses a direct threat to international peace and security."
He added that the danger that the North "will sell fissile material to rogue states and terrorists is too great to ignore."
However, Russia, which abstained from yesterday's vote, said it was "premature and counterproductive" to take the matter to the United Nations.
The IAEA decision "will not lead to a constructive and honest dialogue between the concerned sides, who are aiming to find a peaceful solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Cuba was the only other IAEA member to abstain, and the representatives of two countries were absent from the meeting.
The agency declared North Korea "in further noncompliance with its obligations under its [nuclear] safeguards agreement" and called on Pyongyang "to remedy urgently its noncompliance."
North Korea said last month it was withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is policed by the IAEA.
In late December, the North expelled the two IAEA inspectors based at its Yongbyon nuclear complex and removed all monitoring equipment. Last week, it said it was restarting a nuclear reactor that it shut after a 1994 agreement with the United States.
The IAEA said in a resolution yesterday that it decided to report North Korea's "noncompliance and the agency's inability to verify non-diversion of nuclear material subject to safeguards to all members of the agency and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations."
It also expressed its "desire for a peaceful resolution" of the issue and "support for diplomatic means to that end."
"The message today is we want to make use of the Security Council, to make use of all of the options available to the Security Council to find a diplomatic solution," IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters in Vienna.
"It doesn't mean that we are automatically jumping to sanctions. In fact, all members of the board made it clear that it is not the intention to jump to sanctions right now," he said.
But Mr. ElBaradei said the pursuit of a diplomatic solution did not mean that the members "are foreclosing other options in the future."
The Bush administration had been pressing the IAEA to refer the North Korea matter to the Security Council since Jan. 20, in an attempt to show Pyongyang that it considers the issue not simply a bilateral matter but one between the North and the world.
Engaging the Security Council would internationalize the problem, U.S. officials said, at a time when many regional powers and Pyongyang are urging bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea.
The State Department official yesterday said Washington is willing to engage in "multilateral talks."
Meanwhile, senior intelligence officials said yesterday that North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of reaching the western United States.
The North's missile is a three-stage version of the Taepo Dong 2, said Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. But it is not clear whether Pyongyang is able to successfully launch the missile, because it has not been flight-tested, he said.
CIA Director George J. Tenet, who joined Adm. Jacoby in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeated that statement.
But soon after the hearing, officials sought to play down the pronouncements, saying that North Korea has shown no new missile capabilities in the past year.
The officials said the statements were based on the same information that led U.S. intelligence to conclude a little more than a year ago that Pyongyang was close to being able to flight-test a three-stage Taepo Dong 2.
"This old news is why it's important to proceed with deployment of missile defense and also why the president is focused on multilateral diplomatic talks to deal with North Korea," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
"Technology and time means regimes like North Korea will increasingly have the ability to strike at the United States," he said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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