- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

President Bush yesterday dangled food and energy as incentives for North Korea to give up its nuclear program, reviving a dormant policy once called the "bold approach" for broad-based dialogue with the communist state.
The policy was initiated in the summer of 2001, when Mr. Bush instructed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to seek comprehensive dialogue with the North that would include discussions "about energy and food," as well as the easing of U.S. economic sanctions.
If North Korea chooses to dismantle its nuclear program, "then I will reconsider whether or not we'll start the bold initiative that I talked to Secretary Powell about," Mr. Bush told reporters in the Oval Office before a meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
But the president insisted that the United States will not reward "bad behavior" or be "blackmailed."
Meanwhile, the White House late last night denied a report by Kyodo news agency in Japan that the administration has proposed giving North Korea a written security guarantee in a letter from Mr. Bush to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
"There is no credibility to that story. That story is false," said National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack.
Kyodo, in a report from Washington, quoted a senior U.S. official as saying that under the proposal, Mr. Bush would state in a letter to Mr. Kim that Washington had no hostile intentions toward North Korea and would make clear that it had no intention to invade or attack the communist state.
The Japanese news agency said the proposal was conveyed to North Korea through several diplomatic routes, including the North Korean mission at the United Nations, two European countries and Australia, but that North Korea had yet to reply.
After a policy review that was completed in June 2001, ending months of tough talk about Mr. Kim's reclusive regime, the Bush administration sought talks with North Korea "at any time, any place, without preconditions"
But dialogue did not take place until October, when James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, went to Pyongyang and confronted his hosts with intelligence about a secret uranium-enrichment program. Uranium is a fuel used to make atom bombs.
Since then, the administration has suspended the monthly shipments of heavy fuel oil the North had been receiving as part of a 1994 deal to give up its nuclear program.
As for food aid, Washington has repeatedly said the aid is not connected with the nuclear standoff between the two countries but that it depends on North Korea providing better access to the U.N. World Food Program, which administers the assistance, to monitor its distribution and use.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush seemed to link food aid to the current crisis, but the State Department later said that the United States "will be a significant donor" in the future.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said a decision on this year's amount has not been made. Last year, U.S. food donations totaled 155,000 metric tons of food.
Mr. Bush's comments came a day after Mr. Kelly told reporters in Seoul, "Once we get beyond nuclear weapons, there may be opportunities with the U.S., with private investors, with other countries to help North Korea in the energy area."
Some administration officials on Monday expressed displeasure with Mr. Kelly's remark, suggesting that he had not been authorized to make it, but Mr. Bush yesterday validated his aide's words.
Washington's softer stance in the past week has been coupled with the administration's efforts to explain why its willingness to talk to North Korea and its offer of energy and food aid do not amount to concessions.
North Korea, which expelled U.N. inspectors from the Yongbyon nuclear complex last month, withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty during the weekend. The Yongbyon complex is capable of making plutonium, another fuel used in atom bombs.
Last week, it's deputy U.N. ambassador held three days of meetings in Santa Fe with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration.
Mr. Bush spoke as diplomats from several countries shuttled between capitals in the region for talks aimed at defusing the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"I view this as an opportunity to bind together nations in the neighborhood and around the world to make it clear to the North Koreans that we expect this issue to be resolved peacefully and we expect them to disarm we expect them not to develop nuclear weapons," Mr. Bush said.
Earlier, the White House praised Russia's plan to send an envoy to North Korea to help mediate the standoff. Moscow said that Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov also will travel to Beijing and Washington.
"We welcome this step," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "It's appropriate for these officials to talk, and we believe the message that's been given is very unified in regards to our approach to North Korea. The world has condemned North Korea's actions."
China offered to host talks between the United States and North Korea. However, the State Department said it was not a question of when and where such talks will take place but whether the North is ready to address Washington's nuclear concerns.
As Mr. Kelly arrived in Beijing from Seoul yesterday, an Australian delegation flew to Pyongyang, carrying a letter from Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to his North Korean counterpart, Paek Nam-sun.
The State Department, meanwhile, said Mr. Powell "is looking to travel" to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month.
Diplomatic sources were quoted last week by wire reports as saying that a senior North Korean official also might attend the event, but Mr. Boucher said a U.S.-North Korean meeting has not been discussed.
On Capitol Hill, several lawmakers pushed to suspend all aid and reimpose harsh sanctions on North Korea lifted in 1999, stipulating that any agreement with Pyongyang on ending its nuclear program include inspections provisions.
The bill was introduced on Monday by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, and supported by other lawmakers.
"The crisis created by North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear-weapons arsenal poses a direct threat to the security of the American people," said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
"Our goal is to avoid conflict and secure a verifiable agreement so that North Korea abandons its nuclear ambitions. But this goal cannot be achieved without a stronger and more thoughtful approach that makes clear to North Korea that we will not tolerate their nuclear brinkmanship," he said.


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