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U.S. announces new N. Korea policy

From Suzanne Malveaux

A satellite picture taken on March 2, 2002, of Yongbyon, North Korea, where a Soviet-designed, 5-megawatt nuclear reactor is located.
A satellite picture taken on March 2, 2002, of Yongbyon, North Korea, where a Soviet-designed, 5-megawatt nuclear reactor is located.

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As North Korea begins repairs on a closed nuclear facility, Pyongyang warned that U.S. policies are leading to the brink of war. CNN's Wolf Blitzer reports
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CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- A senior Bush administration official told CNN Saturday that the White House has a new policy to deal with the increasingly defiant North Korea.

The policy is called "tailored containment" -- a plan to which President Bush has agreed -- and is intended to put maximum financial and political pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, the official said. Some components of the policy are already in place.

Under tailored containment, the Bush administration plans to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to bring North Korea's case before the U.N. Security Council, the official said.

The United Nations could declare North Korea in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and perhaps impose economic sanctions, thereby increasing international pressure on North Korea to discontinue its nuclear programs, the official said.

The plan also calls for the United States to encourage North Korea's neighbors to limit or even sever their economic ties with Pyongyang, according to the official. Japan and South Korea have already cut off oil shipments to the country.

The policy has an active military component as well. U.S. vessels could intercept missile shipments from North Korea to cut into their profits from weapons sales, the official said.

The White House insists it will not negotiate with North Korea until it abandons its nuclear weapons programs. A senior Bush administration official said the United States would be willing to hold low-level talks if North Korea had something constructive to say, but as one official put it, "there would be no deal-making."

The U.S. stance may put it at odds with China, however, which on Sunday reiterated its position that "dialogue between all the concerned parties" is the desired method of dealing with North Korea.

The foreign ministers of China and South Korea discussed the emerging crisis in telephone call Saturday night, China's state run news agency reports.

"We attach great importance to recent developments," the report quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao as saying.

"We believe the 1994 nuclear accord is useful for ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula. All parties involved have the responsibility to abide by the accord. We hope that through dialogue the rising tension of the situation can be defused." (Full story)

In other diplomatic moves Saturday, South Korea has sent high-level delegates to China and Russia in a bid to increase pressure on Pyongyang to pull back from its current nuclear stance.

Government officials said Saturday South Korea would also arrange a meeting of tripartite talks with the United States and Japan early next month, the Yonhap news agency reported.(Full Story)

Nuclear inspectors to leave N. Korea

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency has announced its monitors will leave North Korea on Tuesday, complying with the communist nation's decision to expel them and restart its frozen nuclear programs.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN that North Korea could be producing weapons-grade plutonium "in the next month or two."

"It's a country in a defiant mode right now," ElBaradei said. "The attitude there [is] if they use their nuclear capability they might get a better negotiating position."

The IAEA decided to comply with the expulsion because Pyongyang had not responded to a letter ElBaradei wrote asking North Korea to allow the remaining two inspectors to remain at the Yongbyon plant to install seals and cameras.

North Korea announced Friday it decided to expel the inspectors and resume reprocessing spent fuel rods at its Yongbyon plant, a facility capable of making weapons-grade plutonium.

A senior State Department official Friday predicted the IAEA would appeal to the U.N. Security Council to call for action against North Korea over violation of the safeguard agreements. "It is their mandate, they are required to report violations," the official said.

The IAEA is expected to decide its strategy on North Korea during a meeting scheduled for January 6.

The United States believes that North Korea has already built at least three nuclear warheads. There is enough plutonium at the Yongbyon plant to build at least two more, U.S. officials estimate.

Last weekend, North Korea started removing the safety seals and blocked surveillance cameras placed by international monitoring agencies at facilities in Yongbyon.

The IAEA said Wednesday that North Korea had begun to move new fuel rods into the reactor, but added there was no indication that the North Koreans had moved enough new fuel rods into the facility to restart the reactor.

North Korea says it is being forced to restart the reactors because the United States has not honored the "Agreed Framework" between Pyongyang, the United States, Japan and South Korea which froze the North Korean nuclear program.

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