North Korean chief warns about 'crisis'

February 23, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

BEIJING -- Amid growing international tension over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons development program, North Korean President Kim Il Sung declared yesterday that his nation faces an "unprecedented" political and economic crisis.

Mr. Kim's comments came one day after Pyongyang warned that any attempt to force it to accept special international inspections could touch off another Korean war.

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency met yesterday in Vienna in an unprecedented private session to discuss North Korea's refusal to allow its investigators access to two nuclear waste sites.

The West suspects the installations at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex are centers for developing nuclear weapons.

North Korea, the world's most hard-line Communist state, acknowledges that it has a nuclear research program but says the waste sites are secret conventional military sites with no nuclear connections.

Analysis of material from six previous IAEA inspections in North Korea, permitted by Pyongyang, yielded "major inconsistencies" on the quantity and quality of nuclear material reported in North Korea's possession, IAEA spokesman Hans-Friedrich Meyer said in Vienna.

The agency wants to send inspectors to the waste sites to resolve these inconsistencies, he said.

In Washington, a State Department official said he expects the IAEA would meet in Geneva for another day or two before deciding what action to take.

"There's a general mood to see through a resolution [requiring IAEA inspections]," the official said. He said neither Russia nor China -- North Korea's two neighbors -- is giving support to Pyongyang in its effort to resist the IAEA inspections.

He said U.S. officials are uncertain how to interpret Mr. Kim's comments yesterday. "With the North Koreans, you get this kind of rhetoric, whether they are heading into a confrontation or into a deal. So it's never possible to tell," the State Department official said.

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