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N. Korea Nuclear Issue to be Referred to Security Council, Predicts Seoul

South Korea says the North Korean nuclear weapons issue almost certainly will go to the United Nations Security Council.

A South Korean official says the International Atomic Energy Agency is likely to refer the North Korean issue to the Security Council this week.

The Security Council could impose sanctions or authorize military action against North Korea.

The IAEA Wednesday will discuss Pyongyang's recent moves toward developing nuclear weapons. It has said previously that Pyongyang has violated IAEA regulations and accused it of "nuclear blackmail."

Chun Young-woo, director general for international organizations at the South Korean Foreign Ministry, told VOA that while Seoul does not support imposing sanctions on North Korea, it does support involving the Security Council in the issue. "We have never objected to the principle of the referring this matter to the Security Council," said Mr. Chun. "Nobody is talking about sanctions at this stage. We still hope this matter will be resolved peacefully."

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Monday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to discuss North Korea. He said he hopes to go to North Korea and meet with its leader, Kim Jong Il. Mr. Solana left late Monday for meetings with South Korean leaders.

EU officials in Tokyo also said a North Korean diplomat will go to Europe soon to discuss the dispute over its nuclear programs.

At a forum on regional security Monday, the American ambassador to Japan said North Korea is continuing to raise tensions over its nuclear weapons program. Ambassador Howard Baker underscored recent Bush administration statements that the United States could, if necessary, fight North Korea at the same time it is fighting Iraq.

"We do not wish to have a war any place," insisted Ambassador Baker. "But we are fully able to take care of ourselves with one or two conflicts if they are threatened upon us. It is our policy to try to solve the conflict with North Korea diplomatically. And the president has recently said there is still room for diplomacy."

The North blames Washington for the standoff, which erupted in October when a U.S. diplomat said Pyongyang admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program. It escalated over the past two months when Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors and began to reactivate a nuclear facility that was shut down under a 1994 agreement with Washington.