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US Congress Calls for Tough Stance on N. Korea - 2002-10-17

Lawmakers are urging a strong response by President Bush to North Korea's admission that it has a nuclear weapons program. Some Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill say plans to transfer nuclear reactors to North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework with Pyongyang should be scrapped.

Lawmakers who have been critical of the 1994 agreement achieved during the Clinton administration say it is now up to President Bush to cancel the pact.

Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey said North Korea's admission it has violated the agreed framework means it is dead, and he calls for a number of steps.

"The United States should immediately halt all construction of these reactors, cease all nuclear cooperation with North Korea, and call upon South Korea and Japan to do the same," he said. "In addition, we believe the United States should no longer provide fuel oil or other economic aid other than food or medical supplies to North Korea."

Inevitable comparisons are being made with Iraq, which faces possible U.S.- led military action because of its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

Joining Congressman Markey at a news conference, Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl said, "I think it is critical that the administration, in the next several days, come down very hard on North Korea, and not draw distinctions between this regime and regimes like that of Saddam Hussein and others with which we have equal concerns."

Lawmakers angered by the North Korean developments say the administration may now face an even greater test of its resolve.

They say the revelations show President Bush was justified in including North Korea among a group of three nations, with Iraq and Iran, that he labeled an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

Republican Chris Cox of California said what the U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies had warned of for years, Pyongyang itself has now confirmed.

"It is foolhardiness of the first order for governments, for the international community, to transfer nuclear know-how and fissile material to the government of North Korea," he said.

In a letter to the president, Congressmen Cox and Markey, along with Republican Benjamin Gilman, urged Mr. Bush to ask the U.N. Security Council to condemn Pyongyang for violating nuclear non-proliferation commitments and to provide for an appropriate response if it fails to come into compliance.

In other reaction, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Republican Henry Hyde, said Pyongyang's reckless brinkmanship must be met with firm and united resolve.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Tom Daschle, said North Korea must now open itself immediately to U.N. weapons inspections, as well as commit to destroying weapons of mass destruction it possesses.

The Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott, was more cautious, saying the news is reason for concern, but U.S. attention must focus on Iraq for now.