- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 6 (UPI) — South Korea will offer a mediation proposal to the United States and North Korea to end the current nuclear crisis, officials said Sunday.

At the strategy talks Monday and Tuesday in Washington, South Korean officials will present Seoul's compromise proposal, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry told United Press International.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the mediation proposal comprises three stages — first, a U.S. written promise not to strike North Korea and resume heavy oil supplies, in return for the end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program; second, international economic assistance for North Korea; and; third, a multinational security guarantee for North Korea, including from China and Russia.

"(South Korea's) security ministers discussed over the weekend the compromise deal and decided to convey it to the U.S. side during the security meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group," the official said.

"The three-nation meeting among (South) Korea, Washington and Japan would be used to deal with our mediation proposal and discuss how to respond if North Korea takes a positive attitude," the official said. "We are getting closer to finding a solution to resolving the nuclear issue."

The TCOG formalized in April 1999 is a main dialogue channel designed to frustrate North Korea's historical strategy of aiming a diplomatic wedge between the three allies.

In another diplomatic endeavor aimed at ending the nuclear standoff, Yim Sung-joon, South Korean presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, is to visit Washington beginning Tuesday to meet his counterpart, Condoleezza Rice, and other White House officials.

"In Washington, he will exchange views with U.S. officials on comprehensive ways to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully," presidential spokeswoman Park Sun-sook said. "He will also brief them about our consultations with China and Russia."

He is also to travel to Tokyo later in the week to brief Japanese officials there on his U.S. trip, Park said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly was expected to fly to South Korea and for talks next week. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is also expected to visit Seoul this month.

South Korea also plans to offer the mediation proposal to North Korea during talks slated for next week. South Korean officials believe that the ministerial talks will be a crucial opportunity to find a diplomatic breakthrough and defuse tensions on the peninsula.

The Seoul government dispatched envoys to China and Russia last week to seek support for settling the issue through diplomacy. Russia has pledged to join international efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon steps to reactivate its nuclear program, the ministry official said. China, Pyongyang's closest ally, also agreed last week to use its influence on North Korea to help resolve the nuclear crisis.

China and Russia are seen as being among the few states with any leverage with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who announced that his country would reactivate its plutonium-based nuclear program.

Seoul's mediation proposal comes after North Korea said last week that it was willing to talk with the United States and welcomed mediators in resolving the nuclear issue.

Described the nuclear standoff as "very serious and unpredictable," Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency said that North Korea was still willing to negotiate.

"The DPRK (North Korea) has consistently proposed dialogue with the U.S. without preconditions and conclusion of a non-aggression treaty with the United States. There is no change in the DPRK stand to settle the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula in a peaceful way," it said.

"If there are countries which are concerned for the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, they, proceeding from a fair stand, should force the U.S. to remain true to the international agreement so that it may discontinue its unilateral behavior," KCNA said.

Many analysts in South Korea remain skeptical about Seoul's successful mediation bid as Washington and Pyongyang have made no signs of easing hostile stance.

North Korea has aid it was willing to make a deal with the United States if it recognizes the North's sovereignty and assures it of non-aggression. Washington has ruled out any talks before Pyongyang gives up nuclear program.

On Sunday, North Korea blamed the Bush administration of trying to "disarm" North Korea with demands that Pyongyang scrap its nuclear program, calling the United States the "main obstacle" of inter-Korean reunification.

Leaders of the North Korean People's Army convened and wowed to increase the army's combat readiness to meet "the need to bring about a fresh turn in increasing the combat capability of its units," KCNA said.




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