- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

From combined dispatches
SEOUL South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun plans to dispatch an envoy to Washington early this week, as a top U.S. military commander calls for more troops, bombers and ships to the region to cope with an increasing nuclear menace from North Korea.
In a sign the crisis on the Korean Peninsula is deepening, U.S. officials said on Friday that spy satellites show North Korea could be moving toward making nuclear warheads. Satellite images show Pyongyang's workers moving fuel rods, including perhaps some of the 8,000 spent fuel rods, around a key nuclear complex.
The spent rods can be reprocessed to extract plutonium, the fuel used in atomic warheads, although there is no sign that reprocessing has begun after a month of furious activity at the Yongbyon reactor site, the officials said.
"Any steps toward beginning reprocessing would be yet another provocative action by North Korea intended to intimidate and blackmail the international community," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.
He declined to comment on a New York Times report that the stockpile of 8,000 spent fuel rods was being moved.
Weapons specialists said the North would cross a red line and show it was determined to build bombs should it begin to reprocess the spent rods. The specialists say the North could build six warheads from plutonium extracted from this batch of rods.
With the U.S. edging closer to war in Iraq, Adm. Thomas Fargo, based in Hawaii as commander of all American forces in Asia and the Pacific Rim, has asked for reinforcements to send the North a message that the United States is prepared for any contingency, U.S. officials said.
The reinforcements include several thousand more troops to bolster the 37,000 already based in South Korea, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers and perhaps an aircraft carrier.
"The admiral wants to be sure that the North Koreans don't launch any adventure to take advantage of what they might see as preoccupation with Iraq," one defense official told Reuters. "He feels it would be a prudent step."
Pyongyang gave no immediate reaction to the U.S. intelligence report or the request for U.S. reinforcements, but the North's Korean Central News Agency said U.S. surveillance and military exercises were "inciting a war atmosphere."
South Korea said yesterday it had not confirmed the latest U.S. satellite intelligence and had not been informed of any U.S. request to augment its troops in the South.
The South Korean president-elect hopes to coordinate his North Korea policy with Washington even before he takes office on Feb. 25.
During his three-day trip that begins tomorrow, Mr. Roh's envoy, Chyung Dai-chul, will meet Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Park Jin-hyung, an official in Mr. Chyung's office.
Mr. Chyung, a senior member of Mr. Roh's Millennium Democratic Party, also expects to meet with President Bush, Mr. Park told the Associated Press.
North Korea took its first steps to reactivate Yongbyon after Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments to the North. The shipments were stopped when U.S. officials said the North had acknowledged having a nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement.
The North has since expelled U.N. monitors and withdrawn from an international nuclear arms-control treaty.

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