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South Korean President-elect to Propose North Korea Nuclear Compromise - 2003-01-03

Aides to South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun say he plans to propose a compromise solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. The proposal is expected to call for concessions from Washington and Pyongyang.

Diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program gathered pace Friday, with a top aide to South Korea's president-elect announcing plans to present a compromise deal.

Lim Chae-jung, the head of Roh Moo-hyun's presidential transition committee, told South Korea's SBS television Friday that the president-elect's ideas will be offered in about two weeks.

Mr. Lim said the transition team is taking a prudent approach to the North Korean nuclear issue, because it is a "life-or-death" matter for the Korean people. He did not offer further details on the proposal.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, quoting an unnamed government official, says one proposal may be for the North to give up its nuclear program, in exchange for U.S. guarantees for North Korea's security.

Mr. Roh, who will be inaugurated in February, has vowed to maintain the south's current policy of engaging the North.

Senior U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials will meet Monday and Tuesday in Washington to coordinate policy on North Korea.

Afterwards, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, the country's top diplomat for Asia, will go to South Korea and other Asian nations for further discussions.

The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors were expelled by North Korea Tuesday, also meets on Monday at its Vienna headquarters to discuss the crisis.

North Korea created alarm around the world last month by starting to reactivate a nuclear complex capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. It had been frozen under a 1994 accord with Washington.

The move came after the United States and its allies halted shipments of fuel aid to the North, after accusing Pyongyang in October of having another secret nuclear program.

North Korea demands direct talks with Washington and a non-aggression pact to defuse the situation. But the Bush administration rejects the idea, saying it will not give in to blackmail, and the North must first visibly abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hang-kyung went to Moscow Friday to seek Russian support for resolving the crisis. He is set to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov on Sunday.