South Korea is warning that communist North Korea may be about to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But at the same time, South Korea's outgoing president says imposing new sanctions will not resolve the escalating nuclear dispute.
Officials in Seoul say North Korea is hinting that it may pull out of the weapons control treaty. But South Korean President Kim Dae-jung says isolating North Korea further will not ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
A statement from his office quotes President Kim as telling Cabinet members that isolating communist countries has never succeeded.
In 1993, North Korea said it was withdrawing from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. It suspended the decision after the United States began talks that eventually led to a 1994 agreement. Under the accord, Pyongyang was to give up nuclear programs that could create weapons, in return for fuel aid and two safer nuclear reactors from the United States and its allies.
North Korean news media Monday said the United States reneged on the deal, so its participation in the NPT is "in peril." South Korean experts say that indicates Pyongyang may abandon the treaty.
Pyongyang's official news agency said the country has no option but to consider defensive means to cope with what it says is a nuclear threat from the United States. The spokesman called on other nations to press Washington to open dialogue with North Korea.
The United States has ruled out direct talks until North Korea visibly abandons its illegal nuclear programs.
South Korean President Kim, who leaves office in February, underscored his differences with Washington. He said his so-called sunshine policy of engagement is a more effective way of dealing with Pyongyang. Mr. Kim also said South Korea cannot return to "the Cold War system and extreme confrontation." However, Mr. Kim's successor, Roh Moo-hyun, has indicated he may adopt a more hard-line policy if the North remains uncooperative.
This month, North Korea removed U.N. surveillance equipment and reopened nuclear facilities that had been shut down since 1994. Experts say the facilities are capable of producing bombs. Pyongyang also ordered U.N. nuclear monitors to leave the country. They are expected to depart Tuesday.