Wednesday, January 22, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Russia wanted Wednesday to hold off bringing the North Korean nuclear issue before the U.N. Security Council — despite U.S.-led pressure from the international community — hoping a diplomatic “carrot” might work.

As one U.N. official explained Moscow’s logic, “The stick isn’t working in their view; now the carrot” should be tried.

“Let’s see how that works before we do something else,” the official told United Press International, reflecting what he understood as Russia’s thinking.

An official at the Russian Mission to the United Nations in New York, who also did not want to be named, also told UPI he agreed with that reading of Moscow’s thinking.

However, at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mark Gwozdecky, the spokesman, told UPI that pressure was mounting for a meeting of the organization’s Board of Governors, perhaps as early as Friday, to refer the matter to the council.

“It will be a collective decision by the Board of Governors, from 35 countries, in consultation with the director-general (Mohammed ElBaradei) of our organization,” the spokesman said, adding, “and consultations are going on very, very intensively right now. And, you know, moving towards a consensus. But, a consensus has not yet been achieved.”

However, Gwozdecky counseled, “It could happen quickly so I am not ruling out the possibility, something even as early as Friday, but, you know, officially that hasn’t happened.”

At U.N. headquarters there also was corridor talk among diplomats — including by U.S. diplomats — of the issue being bumped to the 15-member panel as early as Friday.

This was all triggered by U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who handles arms control and international security, who said in Seoul that South Korean officials had agreed the dispute should be handled by the council.

His announcement came as inter-Korean high-level talks began in Seoul. During those sessions, the North’s delegates said their country had no intention of making nuclear weapons and expressed hopes of talking with the United States to address the standoff.

“We reached an agreement that it would be appropriate for the IAEA board of governors to pass its third resolution on the subject and refer the matter to the Security Council,” he said after meetings with South Korean security ministers.

Bolton said he expected the IAEA resolution “in the very near future” because an international consensus was emerging. The council could consider economic sanctions against North Korea, which has warned any sanctions against it would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

Bolton was on a journey to mount pressure on North Korea, trip that was to take him to Japan Thursday. He said China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the council, “did not object to bringing the matter to the Security Council through the IAEA.”

Russia and China, along with the United States, Britain and France, are permanent members of the council. Bolton said there was no doubt that Britain and France would approve the plan. The undersecretary of state said he expected Russia would go along with the plan.

Said the Russian official in New York, “There’s still opportunity to lead political dialogue among all the interested parties; … there is still space for talks.”

Gwozdecky in Vienna explained, “This issue can end up in the Security Council in one of two ways. The Security Council can take it up by itself. It doesn’t need to have it formally transmitted by us. But, there seems to an expectation that we would rule on this if only because we are the relative organization with the expertise in this area.

“Generally speaking, our members feel that we do need to decide on this matter but there are some who feel there are ongoing diplomatic efforts (and) Let’s not do anything which might complicate those,” the IAEA spokesman said.

He pointed out a Russian envoy just went go to Pyongyang and the North and South Koreans were meeting Wednesday.

“People want to see the results of those diplomatic efforts because, ultimately the one thing everyone agrees on is we need a diplomatic/political solution,” Gwozdecky said.

Upon arriving in Seoul Tuesday, Bolton said the United States could provide some sort of guarantee it wouldn’t attack North Korea. “Certainly we can find ways to record that fact,” he said.

“We are perfectly prepared to talk to the North Koreans about coming back in compliance with their international obligations,” Bolton said.

Bolton’s visit coincided with the opening of high-level talks between the two Koreas. In the Cabinet-level talks in Seoul, North Korea’s delegates said Pyongyang has no intention of making nuclear weapons and the nuclear standoff can be resolved through dialogue with the United States.

“Although we have withdrawn from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, we have no intention of producing nuclear weapons at this stage,” North Korea’s chief delegate Kim Ryong Song said in a keynote speech. The North’s nuclear activity would remain confined to peaceful purposes, he said.

Kim’s remarks were a response to Seoul’s demand the North freeze its nuclear facilities and reverse its decision to quit the global nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

“We made it clear that inter-Korean relations could be hurt unless the nuclear issue is not resolved promptly,” said the spokesman for the South Korean delegation, Rhee Bong-jo.

South Korea’s chief delegate, Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, in a keynote speech, urged the North to reverse its decision to reactivate its nuclear program and withdraw from the NPT.

In an apparent bid to drive a wedge between South Korea and its key ally, the United States, North Korean delegates called for better cooperation between the two Koreas to prevent “self-destruction” of the Korean peninsula.

“The North and South should cooperate to avoid the threat of war at a time of acute confrontation surrounding the Korean peninsula, and to protect peace and stability of our nation,” said the chief North Korean negotiator.

Last week, the South Korean defense chief said a war on the Korean peninsula would be unavoidable if the United States strikes the North, and that the nation’s military is bracing itself for the “worst-case” scenario.

Bolton was greeted by fierce anti-U.S. protests. “We oppose the visit by John Bolton, a messenger bringing the dark clouds of war here,” chanted civic activists who gathered near the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in downtown Seoul.


(With reporting by Jong-Heon Lee in Seoul)

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