- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly Sunday is to leave for a 7-day tour of East Asia to consult U.S. allies at the height of North Korean nuclear crisis.

The trip comes following North Korea's declaration last month it was reactivating its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang further deepened the crisis by removing U.N. monitoring devices and inspectors from its nuclear facilities.

The United States is trying to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Kelly, who is responsible for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the U.S. State Department, will visit South Korea, China, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan, the department announced Wednesday.

In his talks with officials in each capital, he "will talk about … global, regional, bilateral issues of concern, including North Korea, the fight against terrorism and other events," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a briefing in Washington.

Kelly will be in Seoul on Jan. 12-14; Beijing Jan. 14-16; Singapore Jan. 16-17; Jakarta Jan. 17-18; and Tokyo on Jan. 19.

Another senior U.S. official, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton will also visit the region later this month. Bolton, who oversees arms control and international security, is expected to discuss the issue of nuclear proliferation with officials in China, Japan and South Korea.

Boucher, however, refused to say if Kelly or Bolton also would visit Pyongyang.

"What we said (Tuesday) is we're willing to talk to the North Koreans about how they can come into compliance with their obligations," he said. "I would not speculate at all on how, when or where that might happen."

He said a visit to isolated North Korea, the world's only Stalinist state, was not on the cards "at this time."

Boucher said Washington has told the North Koreans through their diplomats at the United Nations that it wanted to "solve this situation peacefully."

U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea has one or two nuclear devices developed prior to 1994, when it signed an agreement with the United States, through its garnering of weapons-grade plutonium at a reactor at Yongbang.

Under the 1994 accord with the Clinton administration, North Korea agreed to halt nuclear weapons development in exchange for fuel oil and other economic aid.

Last week, it was reported North Korea was in violation of the accord and had actually admitted to it, saying the pact was nullified.

The Bush administration said North Korea admitted its violation Oct. 4 when Kelly, on a visit to the North Korean capital, presented them with evidence of their pursuit of enriched uranium, used in nuclear weapons.

Boucher said the pressures and the tools the United States was using to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program was different from those applied to Iraq "because the history is different."

He described the 12-year history of Iraq's defiance as "a unique situation," adding Iraq had used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and its neighbors.

"In order to solve these (two) situations peacefully, we are bringing different means and tools and efforts to bear," he added.

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