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White House Not Enthusiastic On Congressman's North Korea Proposal

The Bush administration has given a cool response to a proposal by a Republican member of Congress for a deal to end North Korea's nuclear program that would involve large-scale economic aid to Pyongyang. Pennsylvania Congressman Kurt Weldon led a six-member House delegation to North Korea in late May.

State Department officials are politely brushing aside Mr. Weldon's plan for a package deal to end the stand-off over the North Korean nuclear program, reiterating the administration's stand that a diplomatic resolution has to begin with Pyongyang verifiably dismantling its weapons efforts.

Mr. Weldon, a Republican and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, lead a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Pyongyang at the end of May for a four-day visit that included meetings with some senior North Korean officials.

In a commentary Monday in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, Mr. Weldon proposed a 10-point, two-stage, initiative to end the nuclear crisis.

It would begin with, among other things, a one-year U.S.-North Korean non-aggression pact, a renunciation by North Korea of nuclear ambitions, and a multi-lateral aid commitment to North Korea of $3.5 billion a year over the next decade.

The Bush administration has said it is reviewing its next steps with regard to the issue, but has ruled out a non-aggression pact, or any other kind of benefit for North Korea, unless it first returns to compliance with international agreements it has violated with its nuclear moves since last year.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher reaffirmed that position Monday, when asked about the Weldon plan. He said, "We have made very, very clear our position: We're not going to pay to get the North Koreans not to do something that they shouldn't have been doing to begin with. We expect the North Koreas to verifiably and irreversibly dismantle their nuclear programs. We, and many others around the world - including just about everybody who spoke out at the recent ASEAN regional forum meeting - have made clear that we seek a de-nuclearized peninsula. We seek to have the North implement the agreements that it agreed to many years ago with various parties," Mr. Boucher explained.

Spokesman Boucher said Mr. Weldon was not acting on behalf of the administration when he went to North Korea. He did meet Secretary of State Colin Powell after the trip, on June 12, to brief him on the discussions in Pyongyang.

Mr. Boucher reiterated the administration's commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue through multi-lateral talks involving North Korea. He said it is consulting closely with U.S. allies on its next steps, including talks with senior Japanese and South Korean officials this week in Washington.

Congressman Weldon says the talks in Pyongyang included "hard-line rhetoric" from North Korean officials, but said there was also goodwill, and a willingness to go beyond the posturing that gave his delegation reason to believe that there are ways to resolve critical issues.

He said North Korean officials repeatedly stated a belief that the Bush administration wants "regime change" in Pyongyang, and is preparing for a military strike against the North, a charge U.S. officials have repeatedly denied.

Mr. Weldon's plan calls for immediate U.S. recognition of the North Korean government and the opening of a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang.

In a second phase, to start after one year, a U.S-North Korean non-aggression pact would be made permanent, a multi-lateral commission would see to the removal of all nuclear weapons and materials from North Korea over a two-year span, and North Korea would sign the Missile Technology Control Regime, and commit to a time-frame for improving human rights.

The envisaged 10-year aid package for Pyongyang would be largely financed by Japan and South Korea, but also include funds from the United States, Russia, China and the European community.