Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 5 News List

US `hawk' shares views on nuclear row in Seoul

REUTERS , SEOUL

Top US arms negotiator John Bolton, widely seen as a "hawk" on North Korea, holds talks with South Korean officials yesterday amid signs of differences over how to tackle the North's atomic ambitions.

Bolton, an undersecretary of state with considerable influence in the Bush administration, said in China on Monday he had again raised the US position of involving the UN Security Council in the quest for a resolution to the nuclear crisis.

It was not clear how China responded. It has previously said it is against UN involvement. The South is also not keen now.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Bolton would meet South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan later today. He may also hold talks with key members of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's security and foreign policy team on how to persuade the North to return to talks on its nuclear weapons plans.

Yoon was asked by the Financial Times in an interview published yesterday about the Security Council, which Bolton wants to intervene if other diplomatic channels fail.

"I think it is better for us to resolve this outside the UN framework," Yoon said, saying diplomatic efforts were under way.

Bolton was unlikely to brief reporters on those talks yesterday, officials said. He has a news conference scheduled for today, following a speech. Bolton arrived in South Korea on Tuesday from China on the second leg of a three-city tour to seek ways to resolve the crisis. He visits Tokyo next.

On a trip to Seoul last August, Bolton delivered a tough speech which presaged the nuclear crisis that unfolded two months later. In the speech, he described North Korea as the world's foremost peddler of ballistic missile technology.

In Beijing, Bolton met Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), although no details emerged on their talks.

After discussions with Li's deputies on Monday, Bolton told reporters he was no more optimistic than before about North Korea's willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs and he had little progress to report.

China brokered initial talks between the US and North Korea on the crisis in April, but they amounted to little. Beijing has made a strong diplomatic push in recent weeks to bring the two together for a second round.

There had been speculation over the past two weeks that the talks could reconvene in next month or September. But Yoon said on Monday negotiations on restarting talks have bogged down.

The crisis erupted last October when US officials said Pyongyang had said it was pursuing a secret nuclear programme.

On Monday, Bolton said China appeared to have run out of diplomatic options to get North Korea back to the negotiating table, but noted it had "substantial" leverage as the main supplier of fuel and aid to its neighbor.

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