- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

An envoy of South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday that the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program mandates stronger ties between Seoul and Washington.
"We strongly believe that we have to get together, just like in the past, in the future," Yoo Jay-kun told a Washington conference examining the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korean alliance.
"Whenever Korea has trouble, America was always a best friend that really cared and helped us."
The event was held at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and co-sponsored by the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
Mr. Yoo said Mr. Roh, who will be inaugurated Feb. 25, will visit the United States at President Bush's request shortly after taking office.
Mr. Roh, who will succeed President Kim Dae-jung, and his ruling Millennium Democratic Party are expected to receive a tough fight over policy agenda from the opposition Grand National Party that controls the National Assembly.
Mr. Yoo, who is also a member of the National Assembly, refused to speak in any detail about the conflict with North Korea over its nuclear-weapons program.
But he said the nuclear threat posed by the North is a "dark cloud" that continues to hover over the region.
"I cannot overemphasize the importance of the [issue], especially when you consider the imminent danger we find ourselves [in] today," Mr. Yoo said.
He said any solution to the problem must be developed in close consultation with the United States, which he said remains an indispensable part of South Korea's national security.
In Seoul, meanwhile, a senior South Korean official said yesterday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog postponed a board meeting on whether to refer North Korea's nuclear violations to the U.N. Security Council.
"International Atomic Energy Agency board members have yet to reach a consensus on the date for their meeting," the Foreign Ministry official told reporters.
The official said a decision could come next week.
Also yesterday, negotiators from North and South Korea issued a joint statement committing both nations to a peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff.
In recent months, North Korea reportedly has admitted having a secret program to enrich uranium, kicked international nuclear inspectors out of the country, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and moved to restart a mothballed nuclear reactor that makes plutonium. Atom bombs are made with either plutonium or uranium.
Despite the joint statement, South Korea said it had not won any concessions from the North in two days of talks.
The joint declaration said the two sides "agreed to actively cooperate to resolve this issue peacefully."

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