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South Korean Government Discusses North Korean Nuclear Crisis - 2003-01-04

South Korea's national security council met Saturday to search for a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Seoul expects to outline its proposals at a meeting next week in Washington with U.S. and Japanese officials.

South Korea is moving forward with efforts to peacefully resolve the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.

The country's security council on Saturday discussed ways to handle the situation through diplomacy. Pyongyang on Friday repeated its call for a non-aggression treaty with the United States, but Washington refuses to negotiate with the North until it gives up its nuclear program.

An aide to South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun said Friday Mr. Roh would offer a compromise solution in about two weeks, but gave few details.

In October, the United States revealed that North Korea had acknowledged having a secret nuclear program, in violation of a 1994 non-proliferation accord. In response, the United States and its allies halted fuel aid shipments to the impoverished nation. Last month, the country decided to reopen old nuclear facilities capable of producing plutonium. It also expelled United Nations inspectors last Tuesday.

In past crises with the communist North, the United States has usually taken the lead in mediating a solution. This time, South Korea says it wants to spearhead the process. Seoul dispatched an envoy to Russia Friday to win support from Moscow. On Thursday, South Korean officials met in Beijing with their Chinese counterparts for the same purpose.

Both current South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and President-elect Roh, set to take office next month, support a policy of engagement with the Stalinist North. They warn that slapping tough economic sanctions on the North, as proposed by some Bush administration officials, will backfire, and worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula.