- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

From combined dispatches
SEOUL A South Korean delegation on a mission to North Korea to defuse nuclear tensions was not allowed to meet the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, as it had expected and was returning home today, South Korean officials said.
The development wrecked hopes that the delegation led by Lim Dong-won, a presidential envoy who has met Mr. Kim several times in the past would be able to try personally to dissuade the North Korean leader from pursuing a nuclear program.
Many in the South view Mr. Kim as the only figure in the country who can make any meaningful decision on the nuclear issue. There was no immediate comment from the North.
Kim Jong-ro, a spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry, said the delegation, which arrived Monday, would leave the North's capital, Pyongyang, for Seoul this morning.
Even as North Korea hosted the South Korean envoy yesterday, it accused Washington of planning a major attack on the communist country .
North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said the State Department was making "a final examination" of an attack plan that American forces, with the help of South Korean troops, could carry out within hours of receiving orders.
Issuing invective against Washington while courting the South Koreans is a common tactic for the North, which has repeatedly tried to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, its main ally. The North has also cast the nuclear dispute as a confrontation between the United States and all Koreans.
"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is deteriorating so rapidly that an armed clash may break out quite contrary to the desire of the DPRK for the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue," the report said, using the abbreviation for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The North said it was prepared to answer the threat of an attack with "the unlimited use of means." The United States has 37,000 troops in South Korea.
The current dispute began in October when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a nuclear-weapons program based on uranium enrichment in violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States. Washington suspended oil shipments to North Korea, which then ousted United Nations nuclear inspectors and pulled out of a global nuclear-arms-control treaty.
North Korea has frequently accused the United States of planning an attack, but yesterday's report was more forcefully worded and more extensive than most recent statements. Washington has said repeatedly that it has no intention of attacking North Korea and wants a diplomatic solution.
While castigating the United States, the North gave elegant treatment to the South Korean envoy, Mr. Lim. Yesterday, Mr. Lim met with North Korea's No. 2 official, Kim Yong-nam, president of parliament.
The meeting with Kim Yong-nam was considered a prelude to a parley with the North's reclusive leader. But Kim Jong-il's refusal scuttled that hope.
A statement by the South Korean government said yesterday's meeting in the North focused on "pending inter-Korean issues" but did not provide details.
It said the discussions were conducted in "a serious atmosphere."

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