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US Backs IAEA Resolution to End North Korea Nuclear Standoff - 2003-01-06

The United States is hailing the International Atomic Energy Agency's adoption of a resolution demanding that North Korea comply with its international nuclear obligations. The Vienna based IAEA acted as senior South Korean and Japanese diplomats began two days of meetings in Washington with their U.S. counterparts on the North Korean nuclear issue.

The Bush administration is counting on international diplomatic pressure to prompt North Korea to roll-back its recent nuclear moves, and officials here are welcoming the IAEA resolution demanding that Pyongyang fulfill its nuclear obligations.

The resolution, approved by consensus by the IAEA governing board, deplores North Korean violations of its international commitments and calls on Pyongyang to re-admit the U.N. nuclear inspectors it expelled last week.

Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the IAEA resolution is significant in that, among other things, it shows the depth of international concern about North Korea's actions.

"The board called upon North Korea to cooperate urgently, to re-establish monitoring and verification of all its nuclear material, made clear that unless the North Koreans take all necessary steps to allow the agency to implement the required measures, the North Koreas will be in further non-compliance with its safeguard agreement. So we welcome that call from the International Atomic Energy Agency," Mr. Boucher said.

"We think it's very important that the whole board a group of 35 countries that represent a broad cross-section of the international community the whole board agreed on this unanimously by consensus," he added. "These are countries from not only a significant number of members of the U.N. Security Council, but also countries from Australia to Malaysia, from Iran to Cuba."

In Vienna, the IAEA director-general Mohammed El-Baradei said the organization was giving North Korea one more chance to comply, and unless it cooperates, the IAEA will refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

He said once North Korea fulfills its international obligations, the world community would be ready to re-open talks to help the impoverished country, but will not do so under a situation of nuclear brinksmanship. Mr. El-Baradei also dismissed the notion that the crisis is a bilateral issue between Pyongyang and the United States.

"I don't think we're caught in a quarrel between the U.S. and North Korea. I think it is clear that the problem is of an international dimension. It's a problem of violating international obligations with regard to (North) Korea's non-proliferation obligations. I think the board was very clear that this is not a bilateral issue. It's a multi-lateral issue with dimensions that go beyond the beyond any bilateral relationship between the United State and North Korea," the IAEA chief said. "The message that's coming from the board is that the international community is not ready to negotiate under blackmail, or under threat," he explained.

The IAEA board took its action as senior South Korean and Japanese diplomats convened with their U.S. counterparts at the State Department for a two-day round of consultations on the North Korean nuclear issue.

The U.S. delegation is led by the Bush administration's "point-man" for North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, who begins a trip to the region for further talks in Seoul, Tokyo, and also possibly Beijing, in a few days.

Though the Bush administration has flatly ruled out negotiations with North Korea unless it rescinds its nuclear actions, spokesman Boucher declined to criticize, in any way, a reported overture by South Korea to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang.

Aides to South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-Hyun have suggested mediation based on concessions by both sides. Mr. Boucher said he would make no comments based on press accounts of the initiative, and that United States has an obligation, as an ally and friend of South Korea, to discuss the matter with that country before offering comment.

Mr. Kelly was expected to take up the issue in the talks here with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-Shik and discuss it directly with president-elect Roh early next week in Seoul.