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Senior US-Russian Officials Discuss North Korea Nuclear Issue - 2002-10-22

A senior U.S. diplomat has completed two days of talks in Moscow that focused on North Korea's recently revealed nuclear weapons program and other security issues likely to be discussed later this week by the U.S. and Russian presidents.

Under Secretary of State John Bolton says he discussed a host of nuclear non-proliferation issues during his two days of talks with Russian officials.

Officials on both sides say the discussions were dominated by what Mr. Bolton called North Korea's very real and dangerous breach of nuclear non-proliferation accords.

Mr. Bolton was expected to try to persuade Russia to use its influence to convince North Korea to cancel a secret nuclear weapons program, which officials in Pyongyang have recently admitted to having.

On Monday, Mr. Bolton said Russia shares Washington's concern about North Korea. Briefing reporters at the end of his stay in Moscow, Mr. Bolton said he had presented Russian officials with the U.S. assessment of the danger of the North Korean program.

"We have presented certain evidence to the Russian side and we're sure that they'll consider it and that the two foreign ministers and the two presidents will discuss this subject in the next few days," he said.

Mr. Bolton was referring to scheduled meetings between the U.S. and Russian leaders on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Mexico later this week.

He said President George W. Bush has made clear the United States wants to resolve the North Korea weapons issue through peaceful dialogue.

Mr. Bolton next heads to Western Europe, in a bid to build international consensus on the issue among permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain and France.

Among other key issues discussed in Moscow was U.S. concern about Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran and its plans to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Bolton bristled Tuesday when asked whether the United States would overlook that issue, in return for Russia's cooperation on North Korea.

"The idea of that kind of quid pro quo tradeoff is simply an inaccurate representation of the nature of the relationship between Russia and America today," he said. "We wouldn't offer such an arrangement and the Russian government wouldn't accept it."

On the U.S.-Russian front, Mr. Bolton says he expects a treaty calling for a significant reduction in strategic nuclear arsenals could be ratified by the U.S. Congress before the year is out.

The treaty was signed during last year's U.S.-Russia Summit.

Mr. Bolton also said he expects the U-S Congress will soon approve funding to build a chemical weapons destruction facility in Shchuchye, in Russia's Kurgan region. The facility would be the largest plant for destroying chemical weapons ever built in Russia.