- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

DAVOS, Switzerland Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the North Korean nuclear standoff has "settled in for the moment" and predicted that the United States "will talk" to Kim Jong-il's reclusive regime "at the appropriate time and in an appropriate manner."
In Vienna, Austria, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency indefinitely postponed a meeting to discuss the North's Jan. 10 withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty following a request from South Korea.
The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) initially planned to discuss the issue last Friday and then on Feb. 3 which could lead to the matter being brought before the U.N. Security Council.
South Korea requested yesterday that the meeting be put off until Lim Dong-won, adviser to outgoing President Kim Dae-jung who is scheduled to leave for Pyongyang tomorrow, returns and reports on his talks. Mr. Lim will be accompanied by an aide to South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.
Mr. Powell said the United States does not mind the postponing of the IAEA meeting.
"There is no question in my mind anyway that it will get to the IAEA for consideration," Mr. Powell told reporters traveling with him to the World Economic Forum in Davos. "There is not quite the sense of urgency that I would have liked to have seen, but it's not a major problem for us."
The secretary noted the intensive diplomacy in the last couple of weeks, involving the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Russia and China, saying, "I sense things have settled in for the moment," although there are "no breakthroughs."
By taking the North Korea case to the Security Council, the IAEA will make it clear that it is a problem not only between North Korea and the United States but between Pyongyang and the world.
"There is a strong desire on the part of the North Koreans to talk directly to us," Mr. Powell said. "The president has indicated that we will talk at the appropriate time and in an appropriate manner. That will happen, I believe, eventually, and we will work out what the proper manner and form is."
But the North yesterday reiterated its opposition to any moves to "internationalize" the issue, saying the matter is strictly between Pyongyang and Washington.
"The only way of solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula peacefully and in a most fair way is for [North Korea] and the U.S. to hold direct and equal negotiations," a Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying in a newspaper article carried by the official KCNA news agency.
Pyongyang is concerned that once the matter goes to the Security Council, it might impose economic sanctions on the impoverished country. The Bush administration has said that it is not seeking sanctions against North Korea.
Mr. Powell discussed the North Korean situation with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, as well as with Chung Dong-young, adviser to Mr. Roh, in Davos yesterday.
"North Korea must face up to the reality that if it continues to threaten peace, the international community will not simply turn a blind eye," Mr. Chung told participants in the World Economic Forum.
Also yesterday, Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Kim, during a phone call, exchanged information about the scheduled visit by the two South Korean envoys to the North and agreed to cooperate on reaching a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis.
Russia, along with China, is one of the North's few allies and is seen as key to either resolving the dispute or brokering talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
Pyongyang also said yesterday that it was on the lookout for the U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Kitty Hawk. It left its home-port in Japan on Thursday, and Japan's Kyodo news agency reported it had been directed to stand by in international waters off the Korean peninsula. U.S. officials refused to provide information about the ship's movements.
"This is arousing a high degree of vigilance in [North Korea] as it is a dangerous move to stifle it militarily," the KCNA agency said.


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