- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The Bush administration is pressing the U.N. Security Council to take up North Korea's nuclear defiance 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 council would internationalize the problem, U.S. officials said yesterday, at a time when many regional powers are urging bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea.
A senior administration official also gave the clearest indication to date that the United States would be willing to provide North Korea with a written security guarantee, even though the form of that assurance has yet to be decided.
"If putting it on a piece of paper is important, I'm sure diplomacy can find a way to do that, but what that precise mechanism would be has not been decided yet," John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters in Beijing on Monday. He had just conferred with Chinese officials.
Meanwhile, at a high-level bilateral meeting in Seoul today, a North Korean delegation said that Pyongyang does not plan to produce nuclear weapons.
"The North stressed that it has no intention to produce nuclear weapons," said Rhee Bong-jo, spokesman for South Korea's delegation to the Cabinet-level talks.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said earlier this month that the Security Council would have to deal with the North's nuclear pursuits if the problem could not be resolved by other means. But in private, U.S. officials had made it clear that Washington was not particularly eager to pursue that path.
But in the past couple of days, talk about bringing the matter to the council, in spite of its preoccupation with Iraq, has intensified. Several senior officials have urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which on Jan. 6 gave the North one last chance to comply with its international commitments, to go to the council.
"North Korea has chosen to ignore the resolution from the IAEA and to dismiss it, and I think the IAEA therefore has an obligation to refer the matter to the Security Council for [it] to make its own judgment as to what it wishes to do," Mr. Powell said at the United Nations on Monday.
U.S. officials said the urgency was caused by North Korea's Jan. 10 withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its refusal to readmit the U.N. nuclear inspectors it expelled on New Year's Eve.
To have insisted on going to the Security Council earlier would have been "premature," but now that the situation has evolved, such a move is appropriate, a State Department official said.
"This has been an extremely good example of evolution," the official said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said yesterday that "the most effective way" is for "the relevant sides to resume dialogue directly" rather than engage the United Nations.
China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Australia are all taking part in the diplomatic efforts to ease the tensions. All agree that the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear-free.
Although the Bush administration has expressed "willingness to talk" to the North, it has been saying for weeks that the problem is among North Korea, its neighbors specifically and the international community in general, rather than with the United States alone.
When the IAEA, the Vienna, Austria-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, unanimously adopted its Jan. 6 resolution, its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, said that if the North Koreans "continue their policy of defiance, the board will be bound to refer the matter to the Security Council."
But on that same day, a senior State Department official said the United States was "not pushing" for a council meeting on North Korea.
A diplomatic source close to the IAEA said that some Bush administration officials wanted the resolution to find North Korea in "noncompliance," but when the U.S. mission to the IAEA explained that such language meant that the case had to go to the Security Council automatically, the officials backed away.
Another reason for trying to avoid the 15-member Security Council initially was because the issue of economic sanctions would be almost certain to arise, and Washington has said it has no intention of imposing sanctions. Pyongyang has said that sanctions will be considered an act of war.
But now, administration officials entertain the option of holding a Security Council meeting without talking about sanctions. They say that a resolution calling on North Korea to return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, refreeze the Yongbyon reactor and dismantle its uranium-enrichment program would be a sufficient first step.
"This is a way of showing to the North Koreans, as we have tried repeatedly to show, that they are completely isolated in their defiance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," Mr. Bolton said in his meeting with reporters.
"There are a variety of things that the council can do, all of which would demonstrate, we hope, to the North Korean leadership that their actions are broadly unacceptable within the international community," he said.
Mr. Bolton also said that the United States is urging the IAEA to adopt a new resolution as early as the end of the week that would refer the matter to the Security Council.
"In fairness to the IAEA, it only has so much capacity faced with the intransigence of the North Koreans and their evident determination to proceed with two different kinds of nuclear weapons programs," he said.
"In light of that behavior, I think it is now timely to bring the matter to the Security Council, and I think that we're confident that it can handle both Iraq and North Korea at the same time," Mr. Bolton said.
On the issue of providing a formal security guarantee to Pyongyang, his comments were the clearest expression yet of the administration's willingness to meet the North's demand.
Even though President Bush has said repeatedly that the United States has no intention of attacking North Korea, Pyongyang insists on a non-aggression pact. Diplomats from countries in the region engaged in trying to resolve the issue have suggested that the North would settle for a letter from Mr. Bush.
Mr. Powell, in a Jan. 8 interview with The Washington Post, hinted that the administration might be willing to consider something "more than just a passing statement" to assure North Korea of its security.


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