- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

SEOUL Russia presented a settlement plan to North Korean leaders yesterday, and U.S. diplomats broadened offers of aid to the impoverished North.
Also, South Korea's president-elect said he had not meant to suggest that the United States considered a military strike on the North, claiming that his comments Saturday were misinterpreted by the news media.
Washington for weeks has insisted on a peaceful solution to the dispute, and U.S. envoys were in Japan and China yesterday to seek regional advice and cooperation on ending the standoff about North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview published yesterday that the escalating crisis was a matter for the U.N. Security Council.
If the issue goes before the Security Council, France would propose forming an ad hoc group to address it, he told Le Figaro newspaper.
In addition to the five permanent members of the council, the group would include Japan and South Korea, he said.
What Russia called its "package plan," presented yesterday by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov in Pyongyang, envisions security guarantees for North Korea and the resumption of humanitarian aid and economic help in exchange for abandoning nuclear programs.
Russia expected a reply today, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
In Seoul, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard said the United States intends to take the lead in defusing the crisis but wants other nations to play a large role.
"We don't see North Korea as exclusively a U.S. problem," Mr. Hubbard told South Korea's largest broadcaster, KBS. "Its nuclear threat is not just a threat to the United States, it's a challenge to the entire international system."
Mr. Hubbard also put forth the possibility of broad aid for the North.
"If they satisfy our concerns about the nuclear programs, we are prepared to consider a broad approach that would entail, in the final analysis, some economic cooperation, perhaps in the power field," he said.
Complicating diplomatic efforts, South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said Saturday that U.S. officials last month discussed attacking North Korea.
"In fact, at the time I was campaigning and getting elected, U.S. hard-liners, people in very responsible positions in the U.S. administration, were talking about the possibility of attacking North Korea and the possibility of war," Mr. Roh told a panel of professors on KBS-TV, according to a transcript.
But a spokesman, Lee Nak-yeon, said foreign media misinterpreted the remarks. He said Mr. Roh referred generally to news media reports about an attack on North Korea, and that he was not saying U.S. officials seriously considered a military option.

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