- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

SEOUL North Korea called for "national cooperation" with South Korea yesterday as Seoul prepared to send special envoys to Pyongyang to help defuse tensions about the communist North's nuclear development.
The North's acceptance of the envoys could signal an easing in its refusal to have outside help in ending the crisis, which Pyongyang has insisted is a matter between it and Washington.
The United States, which supports Seoul's diplomatic efforts, has pushed for international intervention and reiterated that position yesterday by saying North Korea's nuclear program is a danger to Asia and the world.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the United States always has been honest with the reclusive communist nation and is the biggest donor of humanitarian aid to the impoverished North, but that North Korea must prove it can be trusted.
That trust, he said, hinges on the North ceasing plans to reactivate its nuclear programs, in line with a global anti-nuclear treaty that Pyongyang abandoned earlier this month.
"The United States is willing to talk to North Korea about how it will meet its obligations to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program," Mr. Powell told the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"Pyongyang's behavior affects the stability of both the immediate region and the world," he said.
South Korea, which sends two envoys to Pyongyang today, repeatedly has urged the North to rescind its withdrawal from the anti-nuclear treaty and wants Pyongyang to restore U.N. safeguards at nuclear facilities and suspend activity there.
The envoys represent outgoing President Kim Dae-jung and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, who both support a "sunshine policy" of engaging the North and have called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has indefinitely postponed a meeting of its 35-nation board of directors to discuss whether to refer the Korean nuclear crisis to the Security Council.
Washington was pushing for the matter to go to the council, which could further pressure the North with international sanctions. But South Korea had urged the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA to postpone its meeting, saying it could complicate the mission of its envoys.
The North, too, has stressed inter-Korean cooperation, apparently trying to drive a wedge in the alliance between Seoul and Washington, which is South Korea's closest ally and keeps 37,000 soldiers on its territory.
"Now that the U.S. imperialists' hostile moves against [North Korea] have reached the extremes, national cooperation is the way of saving the nation and the way of patriotism," said the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
The North is demanding a nonaggression treaty with the United States. Washington has ruled out a formal treaty, but has hinted that it could provide a written security guarantee.
Mr. Powell, in Switzerland, repeated that the United States does not intend to attack North Korea and that it will continue to provide aid to the country, which has suffered famine and economic collapse.
"North Korea's policies have dragged its people into a dark, cold, hungry hell," Mr. Powell said.

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