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Security Council Set to Debate North Korean Nuclear Issue - 2003-02-20

As tension builds on the Korean Peninsula, the United Nations Security Council is gearing up for a debate on North Korea's defiance of nuclear nonproliferation treaties.

The current president of the Security Council, Germany's Gunter Plueger, told reporters that the Council will hold further discussions on the situation in North Korea after hearing from a team of legal experts.

Mr. Plueger said the Council provided the experts with a letter and resolution from the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing board, which last week expressed concern that North Korea has violated international nuclear safeguards and rejected new dialogue.

"The experts of the members of the Security Council will study this report and draw their substantial legal conclusions, and will make recommendations to the members of the Council. On that basis, the Council will take the matter up and discuss it," he said.

Since last December, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and expelled the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

U.S. deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, James Cunningham, says the United States welcomes the international organization's decision to take on North Korea.

"We feel very strongly that this is an issue of concern for the entire international community not even just to the region, let alone bilaterally," he said. "And we look forward to discussing this with our partners in the council. This is a problem of proliferation and this kind of violation is something that we should all be concerned about."

In its resolution, the International Atomic Energy Agency called on Pyongyang to comply with its obligations under international treaties and cooperate with weapons inspectors.