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S. Korean President Calls N. Korean Nuclear Program 'Unacceptable' - 2002-12-13

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung Friday said North Korea's decision to restart its nuclear program is "unacceptable." The South Korean leader discussed the situation with President Bush. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the leaders agreed to work toward a peaceful resolution of the nuclear dispute, with President Kim calling the U.S.-South Korean military alliance "more important than ever" given the "current circumstances." "President Kim emphasized that North Korea's statements on unfreezing its nuclear program are unacceptable," he said. "The two leaders agreed to continue seeking a peaceful resolution while not allowing business as usual to continue with North Korea."

Mr. Fleischer says President Bush is continuing to pursue a "common approach" with regional allies to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. "We are working very diligently and effectively diplomatically with Russia, with China, with South Korea, and with Japan as we focus multilaterally on the problems of North Korea pursuing a unilateralist course that is a course that gives us concern," said Ari Fleischer.

North Korea Friday told the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop monitoring its nuclear facilities. Mr. Fleischer called that a "serious matter" and said President Bush hopes Pyongyang will reconsider its request to remove monitoring cameras and protective seals on nuclear equipment.

North Korea says it is reactivating nuclear facilities closed as part of a 1994 deal with Washington. U.S. officials say the plants were used to build atomic bombs. North Korean officials say they are for generating electricity.

Pyongyang's move follows Monday's U.S. led interdiction of North Korean missiles bound for Yemen. That shipment was later released after Yemeni authorities gave assurances that the missiles are for defensive purposes only and will not be handed-over to anyone else.

North Korea says the incident was an "unpardonable act of piracy" that has threatened North Korean sovereignty. Mr. Fleischer says U.S. officials had the right to search the unflagged ship in international waters as part of the fight against terrorism.