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South Korean President Warns Against Hard-line Policy Toward North

South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun has urged continued dialogue with North Korea, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons. The South Korean leader addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council during a two-day stop in the city.

Mr. Roh warned Friday that a hard-line policy in achieving a nuclear-free Korean peninsula could lead to what he called grave consequences.

The United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are engaged in six-party talks with North Korea on the nuclear issue, and Mr. Roh says differences among them complicate the discussions. North Korean representatives failed to turn up for a fourth round of talks, scheduled for September.

Mr. Roh said North Korea either has or is pursuing nuclear weapons. He said, however, North Korea relies on economic aid from South Korea, China, and Russia, and he believes that aid alone provides enough incentive to persuade the North to forego its nuclear ambitions.

The South Korean leader said he believes North Korea is intent on achieving reform. He said it has started to embrace a market economy, and said its intransigence in multilateral talks reflects North Korean concerns for the security of its regime. He warned that North Korea could resort to what he calls a perilous option if its leaders believe its system is in jeopardy.

Mr. Roh said there are no alternatives to dialogue in dealing with North Korea, and he hopes his reclusive neighbor will follow the path of China and Vietnam in opening up to the world.

Mr. Roh is on the first leg of a 12-day trip that will take him to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Santiago, Chile, November 20 and 21. He will meet privately there with President Bush, who will also attend the forum.