- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Bush administration's top arms-control official yesterday expressed confidence that the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency will send the North Korean nuclear issue to the Security Council as early as "the end of this week."
But while consensus about holding a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was building among its 35 members, not all were convinced that Pyongyang's Jan. 10 withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be taken up by the council yet.
"I don't think that it's a question of 'if' it goes to the Security Council," John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters in Seoul. "It's a matter of time. We are confident it will get there by the end of this week."
But a senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said today a special IAEA meeting to decide whether to refer the matter to the United Nations has been put off.
"International Atomic Energy Agency board members have yet to reach a consensus on the date for their meeting," the official told reporters.
"Taking into account this fact, there is little possibility of IAEA board members' meeting taking place this week."
The board was expected to convene a meeting tomorrow in Vienna, Austria, but the South Korean official said it was now likely to take place the following week or in early February.
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher would not commit to a deadline, but he said the IAEA should take action in the near future.
"We look for the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to report this to the Security Council and we're looking for that to be arranged soon," Mr. Boucher told reporters.
"We think it is important, first, for the Security Council to deal with this because it relates to international peace and security; and second of all, for the international community to use this way to continue to make clear that this is a serious matter of concern to all of us," he said.
Mark Gwozdecky, the chief IAEA spokesman, said last night that "no decision" about an emergency meeting had been made yet, and that there is "no consensus" that the matter should be referred to the Security Council.
Diplomats close to the IAEA said that Russia is opposed to such a move at this time, mainly because North Korea strongly disapproves of it.
The Bush administration is pressing for U.N. Security Council consideration of 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 key East Asian nations are urging bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea.
When the IAEA, the Vienna, Austria-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, unanimously adopted its Jan. 6 resolution criticiziing North Korea's expulsion of international nuclear monitors, IAEA's director-general, 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 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 pushing for 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 told reporters in Beijing on Monday.
"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.
A senior Australian diplomat said his country supports the United States in its attempt to involve the Security Concil in the North Korean issue.
"North Korea should realize that the IAEA has the mandate to consider non-implementation of its Jan. 6 resolution," said the official who is familiar with last week's meetings of an Australian delegation with top North Korean officials in Pyongyang.
"They are concerned about their security, as well as keeping themselves in the game in the region. I don't think they want to be isolated," he said.
Murray McLean, who led the Australian delegation and met with U.S. officials Tuesday and yesterday, said in Washington yesterday that he was "mildly encouraged" that the diplomatic impasse may be broken soon.

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