U.S. offers N. Korea deal to end nuclear standoff

December 11, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The United States offered a swap of concessions with North Korea yesterday in hopes of gaining full inspection of its nuclear facilities, officials said.

If North Korea agrees to the inspections and resumes a dialogue with South Korea, the United States would schedule high-level U.S.-North Korean talks, and South Korea would announce suspension of planned joint military exercises with the United States.

The new American offer, delivered by State Department officials to North Korean envoys yesterday in New York, goes partway toward fulfilling North Korea's demand for a "package deal" with the United States.

It was made in response to last week's offer by North Korea, deemed inadequate in Washington and Seoul, that would have allowed only limited inspections at North Korea's most important declared nuclear sites.

President Clinton held out hope yesterday that the contacts would break the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula caused by Pyongyang's refusal to permit unhampered international inspection of its declared nuclear facilities.

This refusal has fueled suspicion that North Korea is trying to hide development of nuclear weapons.

Asked about the effort to inspect North Korean sites, Mr. Clinton told reporters, "If you've asked me: Have I given up on the discussions? The answer is no. We're aggressively pursuing them.

"We have some hope for the continuing discussions."

Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers announced yesterday's meeting but did not disclose the new elements of the U.S. offer. She said the meeting was held "to discuss the U.S. demands that North Korea open its sites to nuclear inspection and resume dialogue with South Korea toward a nuclear-free peninsula."

"We went back to them and reminded them that we want full IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections of their nuclear sites and a resumption of the dialogue with South Korea, and we'll see," she said.

In the past, both the United States and South Korea have insisted that North Korea agree to both the inspections and a resumed dialogue with South Korea before any concessions from the United States.

The United States reasoned that North Korea previously had agreed to both points and thus should not be rewarded simply for fulfilling a previous commitment.

Once high-level talks are scheduled between North Korea and Robert Gallucci, assistant secretary of state for political and -military affairs, the United States is prepared to discuss a wide array of issues with North Korea, including eventual diplomatic and trade ties, and perhaps aid.

The watchdog IAEA, barred for months from being able to conduct thorough inspections in North Korea, is close to concluding that its ways of monitoring whether North Korea is trying to develop nuclear weapons are exhausted.

Once that happens, the United States has said, it will have no choice but to work through the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea.

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