- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

SEOUL — South Korea yesterday said it opposed an early discussion of North Korea’s nuclear threats at the U.N. Security Council, and urged the United States to first exhaust diplomatic efforts to bring the communist state to negotiations outside the United Nations.

Security Council deliberations on the nuclear threats could lead to economic sanctions against the North — an action Pyongyang has said it would consider a “declaration of war.”

Undersecretary of State John Bolton met with South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan yesterday amid signs that U.S. efforts to engage the North in talks on its suspected nuclear weapons development were stalling.

Mr. Yoon and Mr. Bolton agreed “that the North Korean issue should be handled in the U.N. Security Council, but what’s important is the timing on when the council deals with the issue,” said Oh Joon, a senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official.

“Our view is that we should wait a little bit more, since international efforts are focused on finding a way to resume multilateral talks,” Mr. Oh told reporters.

Mr. Bolton, Washington’s top arms-control official, told reporters in Beijing earlier this week that he could not predict when a new round of talks would take place because of Pyongyang’s recalcitrance, and suggested that the Security Council might have a role to play in the dispute. He did not clarify when Washington would take the matter to the council.

The diplomat said Tuesday after arriving in Seoul that Washington’s plan to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat at the U.N. Security Council would be “complementary” to efforts to bring the communist state to the negotiating table.

Mr. Oh said Washington and Seoul had no fundamental differences on this matter. Mr. Bolton is expected to hold a news conference today.

China, North Korea’s closest ally and a permanent member of the Security Council, has thwarted previous U.S. attempts to have the council condemn Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea says it will not give up its nuclear ambitions unless the United States agrees to a nonaggression treaty and provides economic aid. It also says its nuclear program is aimed at deterring what it calls “hostile” U.S. policy and demands a one-on-one meeting with Washington.

The United States considers the North’s nuclear programs a regional threat and insists on multilateral talks. With China working as an intermediary, Washington recently proposed holding three-party talks including North Korea and China, on the condition that the meetings quickly expand to include South Korea, Japan and Russia, according to officials in Seoul.

In Washington, President Bush said he reiterated the need for multilateral talks in a conversation yesterday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“We’re actually beginning to make serious progress about sharing responsibility on this issue in such a way that I believe will lead to … an attitudinal change by [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il, which will be very positive for peace in the region,” Mr. Bush said at a news conference.

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