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N. Korea Refuses to Meet with EU Envoy - 2003-02-11

South Korea has asked Europe for help in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis. North Korea still insists it will discuss the issue only with the United States, and refuses to meet with an European Union envoy.

South Korean leader Kim Dae-jung on Tuesday appealed to Javier Solana, the European Union's chief of foreign policy and security, to ease the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons development. Mr. Solana is in Seoul to discuss the North Korea issue after holding similar talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo. Mr. Solana says the EU wants to help create an international framework for resolving the issue, but recognizes that North Korea has rejected this approach.

The North has said repeatedly the matter must be settled through direct talks with Washington and wants the United States to sign a non-aggression pact. The United States says it is open to talks but refuses to sign such a treaty. It also favors involving other nations in the talks.

Mr. Solana had planned to visit North Korea and meet with its leader, Kim Jong Il. But North Korean officials canceled the meeting. Mr. Kim also refused to talk with a South Korean envoy who went to Pyongyang earlier this month.

The dispute may soon head to the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency board meets Wednesday and is expected to refer North Korea to the U.N. Security Council for violating agreements on nuclear weapons.

The Council could impose sanctions - a move the North says would be tantamount to declaring war.

Despite the tensions, North and South Korea are moving ahead with a series of joint projects, including family reunions. On Tuesday, a delegation from the North arrived in Seoul for talks on stepping up economic exchanges.

The two countries have remained technically at war, since the Korean War ended in 1953.

The nuclear crisis erupted in October, when Washington said North Korea admitted it had a secret nuclear program. Since then, the North has expelled U.N. inspectors, withdrawn from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and claimed to have restarted an old nuclear facility that can produce weapons-grade plutonium.