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Top Russian Diplomat Calls for Quiet Diplomacy in North Korea Nuclear Dispute - 2003-01-17

Russia's top diplomat for Asia says quiet diplomacy must be given a chance to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute with the United States. The envoy is meeting with Chinese officials before heading to North Korea.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov says diplomacy must be given time to work if the dispute over Pyongyang's revived nuclear program is to be resolved.

Speaking to reporters at Beijing airport Friday, Mr. Losyukov said he is convinced it is possible to resolve the situation peacefully, but to achieve that, diplomats will have to work very well.

Russian officials say they will work to promote dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, but will not act as a mediator in the crisis. China has taken a similar position but offered to host talks between North Korea and the United States. So far Pyongyang has rejected Washington's offer to meet, insisting on a formal non-aggression pact first.

In order to break the stand-off, Moscow is promoting a "package settlement" plan. It calls for banning nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and returning to the 1994 agreement between Pyongyang and Washington that was supposed to shut down North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy aid. It also proposes security guarantees and economic assistance for the poverty stricken communist North Korea.

Mr. Lusyukov's mission comes one day after an American envoy, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, concluded his latest round of talks with top officials in Beijing. Mr. Kelly said solving the North Korean crisis will be "a slow process."

These missions are part of a parade of top-level diplomats now holding talks in Pyongyang and other key capitals. An Australian delegation and a top U.N. envoy have been holding talks in Pyongyang for several days and are scheduled to leave North Korea Saturday.

The problem came to light in October, when Washington said North Korea admitted breaking a 1994 agreement with a secret effort to build nuclear weapons. North Korea has denied this allegation but has escalated the dispute by pulling out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty, expelling U.N. nuclear monitors, threatening to resume testing ballistic missiles and beginning to reprocess nuclear fuel. Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is a key step in producing some kinds of nuclear weapons.