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North Korean Decision to Leave Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Sparks Concern - 2003-01-10

Governments in Asia and Europe are condemning North Korea's decision to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). France is calling for the U.N. Security Council to take up the matter, while Australia is planning to send a senior delegation to Pyongyang to ease the crisis sparked by North Korea's nuclear ambitions. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin says his government condemns North Korea's decision. During a speech in Shanghai, China, Friday he called for urgent international mobilization to defuse the growing crisis over North Korea's nuclear-related decisions.

Mr. de Villepin says the U.N. Security Council will now have to address North Korea's move Friday to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. France is one of five permanent members of the Security Council and currently holds the rotating presidency.

Fellow council member, Russia, is expressing deep concern and is staying in contact with all parties to resolve the crisis. In Moscow, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi voiced the hope that Russia's good relations with North Korea will help ease tensions.

Pyongyang's other close ally, China, remains concerned and continues to urge diplomacy to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

On the diplomatic front, Asian power, Australia, announced it will send a high level delegation to Pyongyang, as one of the few countries with official relations with North Korea. "They'll be arriving in Pyongyang on Tuesday and they will be in North Korea until Saturday," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. "They will undertake a series of discussion with North Korean officials during the course of nest week and they will also take the opportunity while there to assess the humanitarian situation. But the significant part of their work will be to explain the Australian government position in relation to our concern over what's happening in North Korea."

South Korea called a meeting of the country's security council saying the situation on the peninsula has gone from bad to worse.

North Korea's decision to withdraw from the NPT Friday is only the latest in a series of moves to restart it nuclear programs in the past few months.

Since October, Pyongyang has been accused of having a secret uranium enrichment program. It is also reactivating a nuclear complex that can produce weapons grade plutonium and kicked out U.N. nuclear monitors.