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US Committed to Diplomatic Solution of N. Korea Nuclear Issue, Says Powell - 2003-01-20


The Bush administration Monday reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the problem posed by North Korea's repudiation of international nuclear agreements. Secretary of State Colin Powell took up the issue on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting on terrorism.

The secretary discussed the North Korean nuclear issue in New York with, among others, his counterparts from Russia and China, and while giving no details, he said "some interesting elements" have come forward in discussions of the situation.

In a talk with reporters after Monday's Security Council meeting, Mr. Powell reiterated once more the Bush administration's commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the matter, and that the United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea.

At the same time, he said, North Korea's defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency obliges that organization to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council, action that could lead to sanctions against Pyongyang.

"North Korea has chosen to ignore the resolution from the IAEA and to dismiss it. And I think, the IAEA, therefore, has an obligation to refer the matter to the Security Council, for the Security Council to make its own judgment as to what it wishes to do. I'm in close consultation with all of my colleagues in the region, as well as on the Security Council, and we are pursuing diplomatic approaches to the solution of this problem," Mr. Powell said.

Bush administration officials said they detected no opposition from other major countries in bringing the issue to the Security Council, even though North Korea has bristled at the idea of U.N. sanctions, and warned they would be tantamount to an act of war.

In a Washington speech, meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the administration's commitment to diplomacy with regard to North Korea, even as it threatens the use of force against Iraq to prompt it to heed U.N. resolutions.

The defense chief said Iraq's past use of weapons of mass destruction and its immense wealth make it a "grave and gathering danger" to the region and the United States, while North Korea, he said, is a country that, in many respects, is "teetering on the verge of collapse."

"There's starvation. Its history has been one of attempting to use weapons programs to blackmail the West into helping stave off their economic disaster. North Korea is a threat, to be sure. But, it's a different kind of threat, one that, for now, at least, can be handled through diplomacy. Above all, it is a proliferation problem for the world, as the world's leading proliferator of ballistic missile technologies, and to the extent it then has nuclear materials, or even nuclear weapons, it could proliferate those as well," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

In addition to pursuing a roll-back of North Korean nuclear moves through diplomacy, Mr. Rumsfeld said, the United States has "robust" military capabilities in northeast Asia, which have deterred, and will continue to deter aggression in the region.

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