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EU plans N. Korea mission

From Sohn Jie-ae
CNN Seoul Bureau Chief

Solana met with Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi before landing in Seoul
Solana met with Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi before landing in Seoul

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana says he is likely to travel to North Korea in the coming weeks to discuss ways to defuse the nuclear impasse.

Solana is in Seoul to meet with top South Korean officials -- President Kim Dae-jung, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, the foreign minister and the minister of defense -- on EU-South Korea relations and the nuclear issue involving North Korea.

Earlier, Solana said his mission to North Korea depended on the outcome of an emergency meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency this week.

There had been some talk of him traveling to Pyongyang as early as mid-month, but EU delegation spokeswoman Christina Gallash said a late February to early March is a probable time frame.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will hold a board meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to refer the North Korea issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Should that happen, the Security Council may impose sanctions on North Korea in an attempt to persuade Pyongyang to drop its nuclear plans -- North Korea says such a move would amount to a declaration of war.

Tensions have mounted on the Korean Peninsula since last October when the U.S. said North Korea admitted to secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 deal.

Pyongyang responded by backing out of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty earlier this year, kicking out U.N. nuclear monitors and restarting its mothballed nuclear power plants in a move it says will compensate for an energy shortfall.


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