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South Korea Sending Presidential Envoy to Visit North Korea - 2003-01-24

South Korea will send a presidential envoy to Pyongyang Monday to discuss the dispute over North Korea's nuclear programs. The announcement came after the two sides wrapped up four days of ministerial talks in Seoul with a general agreement to resolve the nuclear crisis but no specifics.

In Seoul, the Blue House Friday announced that presidential envoy Lim Dong-won would lead a team to North Korea Monday for several days of talks on the nuclear crisis. The announcement comes hours after North and South Korea pledged to work together to resolve the international stand-off over the North's nuclear development. The tepid statement was issued after four days of meetings, that included a final session that lasted through the night.

South Korean delegates pushed their Northern counterparts to renounce nuclear projects and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the North Koreans made no explicit concessions. South Korea says it is disappointed at the lack of progress.

These were the first cabinet-level inter-Korean meetings since October, when U.S. officials said the North had a secret nuclear weapons program, sparking an international crisis.

In Tokyo, top U.S. arms control diplomat John Bolton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi Friday during his last stop on a sweep through Asia. Japanese officials say the two agreed on the need for multinational cooperation to try to peacefully resolve the nuclear standoff.

Mr. Bolton told reporters Washington remains hopeful that the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency will soon meet and refer the North Korean nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council. "It remains our objective to have a meeting [of the IAEA board] and we remain optimistic the meeting will occur in the near future and there will be a third resolution to take the matter to the Security Council," he said.

The Security Council could decide to impose sanctions or even military action against the North to force it to comply with international non-proliferation agreements.

But Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi cautioned Mr. Bolton that any move toward sanctions must approached cautiously. North Korea has said that it would view the imposition of sanctions as tantamount to a declaration of war. While Mr. Bolton said earlier this week that China and South Korea supported taking the dispute to the Security Council soon, both countries have since issued denials.