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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 13:12 GMT
S Korea's Roh urges diplomacy
Roh Moo-hyun, left, shakes hands with US Gen Leon LaPorte, Korea-US Combined Forces Command
Mr Roh played down the military threat
South Korea's President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has called on the US to open a dialogue with the Stalinist North, as diplomatic moves continued to resolve a nuclear stand-off.

North Korea is sincere about its willingness to open up and reform

Roh Moo-hyun

Mr Roh said fears that North Korea could resort to using military force were unfounded.

"North Korea does not have the military capability to resolve any issue through its armed forces, and North Korea knows this fact very well," he told foreign business leaders.

"I think the problem can be resolved through dialogue because North Korea is sincere about its willingness to open up and reform. It has no other choice," he said.

Mr Roh was speaking on the same day as his predecessor, Kim Young-sam, revealed details of a US-South Korean split during the last crisis over North Korea, in 1994.

1994 FLASHBACK
Kim Young-sam (AP photo)
I told [Clinton] that if the US attacks North Korea I cannot send one single member of South Korea's armed forces into battle

Former President Kim Young-sam
Mr Kim said he argued with former US President Bill Clinton over a US plan to attack a North Korean nuclear site, even threatening to withdraw South Korean military backing.

Diplomatic efforts are continuing to resolve the latest crisis, which came to a head last week when North Korea announced it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China, which has offered to host talks between Washington and Pyongyang, on Friday held talks with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov.

Escalating crisis

Mr Losyukov was due to meet officials in Pyongyang on Saturday, where he is expected to put forward a plan to revive the 1994 agreement that froze North Korea's nuclear programme in return for aid

"It is necessary to give quiet diplomacy an opportunity to work," Mr Losyukov told reporters as he arrived in Beijing.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
Yongbyon nuclear facility
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
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors forced to leave North Korea
10 Jan: N Korea pulls out of anti-nuclear treaty
11 Jan: Pyongyang suggests it could resume ballistic missile tests
Correspondents say that although Russia is one of the few close allies of the isolated Communist state, his visit is unlikely to lead to an end to the three-month standoff.

The impasse started last October, when the US said North Korea had admitted it was working on a nuclear weapons programme.

The US stopped fuel aid to North Korea in protest, and that led to North Korea expelling United Nations weapons inspections and announcing it was reactivating a previous nuclear programme.

North and South Korea have agreed to hold ministerial talks in Seoul next week, as well as Pyongyang-hosted talks on connecting road and rail links.

A North Korean official was quoted on Friday as saying Pyongyang would not discuss the nuclear issue in the talks.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Russia and China have both said they want to give diplomacy a chance"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

14 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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