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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 21:04 GMT
Bush attacks N Korea leader
South Korean soldiers patrol near the border with the North
South Korea has opposed sanctions against the North
President George W Bush has accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-il of starving his own people - but stressed that the US still wants to resolve the nuclear crisis peacefully.

If North Korea's aim is to get US attention, Pyongyang has yet more cards to play

Korean expert Aidan Foster-Carter
Speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Bush said that the people of North Korea faced hardship "because the leader of North Korea hasn't seen to it that their economy is strong or that they be fed".

"We [the US] have got a great heart. But I have no heart for somebody who starves his folks," he added.

Aid agencies estimate that up to two million people have died of starvation or malnutrition in North Korea since the mid-1990s as a result of acute food shortages.

Diplomatic activity

Mr Bush said he was in constant contact with Japan, Russia, South Korea and China over Pyongyang's recent decision to reactivate a reactor that could be used to make nuclear weapons-grade material.

"We are working with friends and allies in the region to explain clearly to North Korea it is not in their nation's interest to develop and proliferate weapons of mass destruction," he said.

However Mr Bush did not discuss the issue of direct talks with Pyongyang, which Washington has previously rejected, saying it will not reward bad behaviour.

Earlier in the week, Pyongyang said it had no choice but to reactivate its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, 90 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, because the US was planning a pre-emptive strike.

The facilities were mothballed as part of a 1994 accord which now appears to be in tatters.

South Korea anxious

South Korea has asked Beijing to try to persuade Pyongyang to calm the crisis over its nuclear programme.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
Satellite picture of Yongbyon complex (AFP picture)
16 Oct: N Korea acknowledges secret nuclear programme, US says
14 Nov: Oil shipments to N Korea halted
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
26 Dec: UN says 1,000 fuel rods have been moved to the plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors leave North Korea
31 Dec: N Korea threatens to pull out of NPT nuclear treaty

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-shik held talks in Beijing with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday, in which he requested that China use its influence to put pressure on North Korea to back down its nuclear programme.

South Korean officials later told Reuters news agency that China had agreed to use diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

If confirmed, it would mark a shift in Chinese policy, as correspondents say that as North Korea's main ally it has been very reluctant so far to exert direct pressure on an already unstable country.

South Korea also plans to dispatch a senior official to Moscow - another of North Korea's main allies - on Friday.

United Nations nuclear inspectors have also left North Korea after they were ordered out by Pyongyang.

But an International Atomic Energy Agency spokeswoman said the agency hoped to return.

Tensions over North Korea have increased since October, when the US said North Korea had admitted to having a separate, secret nuclear programme.

A flurry of diplomacy has taken place since then, including visits by high-level US officials to both Beijing and Seoul.

Correspondents say South Korea has strongly opposed the notion of sanctions being applied to the North, saying this could have devastating consequences.


NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
Yongbyon: Five-megawatt experimental nuclear power reactor and partially completed plutonium extraction facility. Activities at site frozen under 1994 Agreed Framework
Taechon: 200-MWt nuclear power reactor - construction halted under Agreed Framework
Pyongyang: Laboratory-scale "hot cells" that may have been used to extract small quantities of plutonium
Kumho: Two 1,000-MWt light water reactors being built under Agreed Framework

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"So far the US president is giving his support"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

01 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
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