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Seoul Suggests Incentives to Sway N. Korea

TIMES STAFF WRITER

South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung Joo warned Monday that the United States and its allies should avoid hasty moves toward adopting international economic sanctions to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

In an interview with The Times, Han suggested that the Clinton Administration and governments such as Japan should consider holding out the prospect of incentives for North Korea if it will permit international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Those rewards could include economic benefits and an end to North Korea’s political isolation.

“We don’t want to push the North Koreans into a corner,” Han said. “We want to give them time to reverse their position in a face-saving way.”

North Korea served notice March 12 that it plans to take the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the international accord aimed at preventing nuclear plants and fuel from being used to make nuclear weapons.

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For months before Pyongyang’s surprise announcement, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which polices treaty compliance, had been trying without success to inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities. The Vienna-based IAEA has threatened to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council if Pyongyang refuses to grant access to the sites by Wednesday.

Han has been meeting with top Administration officials, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Defense Secretary Les Aspin and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, to discuss what should be done about North Korea.

The South Korean foreign minister said the United States and its allies should make clear that the Pyongyang regime will eventually face “deprivations,” such as economic sanctions or continued political isolation, if it persists in resisting inspections of its facilities.

But Han said sanctions should not be imposed immediately. Instead, he said, there should be some form of negotiations, either involving the United States directly or through some intermediary such as China or U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

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U.S. officials worry that if the West grants a package of benefits to North Korea, that action would set a precedent under which other nations, such as Iran or Iraq, could use the threat of developing nuclear arms as a bargaining chip to extract benefits from the West.

But Han insisted that “the geo-military situation in Korea is unique.” And he insisted that “we are not compromising. There is no negotiation (with North Korea) concerning the inspection requirements.”


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