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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

North Korea's Neighbors Seek Peaceful Solution

Aired December 29, 2002 - 07:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story this hour is the emerging crisis in North Korea. Its neighbors seek a solution through dialogue, while the U.S. plans to intensify pressure on Pyongyang. Still, the communist state refuses to abandon its nuclear program.
CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon joins us now with more from Seoul, South Korea -- Rebecca.

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Renay, North Korea continues to act with defiance, speak with defiance towards Washington. The latest statement coming out of the state-sponsored news agency today in North Korea is in reaction to the Bush administration's new policy of tailored containment with North Korea. In a commentary, the state news agency said quote, "The imperialist reactionaries are seriously mistaken if they think they would bring the Korean people to their knees with pressure."

Meanwhile, here in South Korea, the government is reacting with grave concern about North Korea's recent decision to kick out nuclear inspectors from North Korea, and to restart its nuclear processing facilities that had been frozen since 1994.

South Korean foreign minister calling China's foreign minister today, speaking on the phone, trying to coordinate with China on a policy towards North Korea, hoping that China can bring some pressure to bare on North Korea to scale down the nuclear tensions. China being North Korea's closest ally at this point in time.

Meanwhile, the international nuclear inspectors are currently packing their bags getting ready to leave North Korea on Tuesday, after their departure, there will be no more international presence in North Korea to monitor what goes on in its nuclear facilities. The IAEA will hold a meeting on the sixth of January to determine its recommendations to the United Nations for future actions towards North Korea -- Renay.

SAN MIGUEL: Catherine, this rally that was staged yesterday by the government there -- 10,000 people showing up, having kind of an impact at all on the streets of South Korea?

MACKINNON: Well, here in South Korea, the politics are very complicated and North Korea is definitely trying to appeal to a segment of the population here who feel that the United States is taking too much of a hard line, and that the United States is in part responsible for the current tensions. There has been a rising tide of anti-U.S. sentiment in recent months, in South Korea, after a U.S. military vehicle hit and killed two South Korean teenagers -- there have been protests continuing on even through the last few days.

Now, South Koreas new president elect was elected in part by people who do feel that South Korea should take a more independent stance towards Washington. So, now with these -- the current tension growing and South Korea trying to coordinate its policy with Washington, North Korea is trying to play with the domestic political situation here to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul. It remains unclear whether it's going to be capable of doing that.

SAN MIGUEL: I know there are many in South Korea who would like to see the 37,000 U.S. troops leave South Korea -- Catherine MacKinnon, Rebecca MacKinnon rather, joining us from Seoul, South Korea -- thank you for your time.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea reportedly has responded to a new U.S. policy towards Pyongyang, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has more now, on that, from the president's ranch in Texas -- Suzanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A senior administration official tells us that the White House has come up with a new policy in dealing with an increasingly defiant North Korea; it's called tailored containment. A plan the president has signed off on to, to put maximum financial and political pressure on North Korea's Kim Jung Il to abandon his nuclear weapons programs.

Under the new policy, the Bush administration would with the International Atomic Energy agency to bring North Korea's case before the United Nations Security Council. The U.N. could declare North Korea in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and perhaps impose economic sanctions. The plan also calls for the U.S. to encourage North Korea's neighbors to limit or sever economic ties with Pyongyang. Japan and South Korea have already caught up oil supplies to the country, and the policy calls for an active military component as well. U.S. vessels could intercept missile shipments from North Korea to cut into their profits from weapons sales.

A senior administration official says, "For the policy to work, it largely depends on U.S. allies, but if it is successful, it would isolate North Korea to the point it'd have to abandon its nuclear ambitions or face a crumbling regime." A senior administration official also saying that, "The White House is insisting it will not negotiate with North Korea until it abandon its weapons program." But, that administration official also saying that, "The White House would be receptive to low level talks with North Korea if it had something constructive to say," but as one official put it, there'd be no deal making.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN Crawford, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLAWAY: And as we reported just a few minutes ago, the foreign ministers of China and South Korea reportedly took the phone lines to discuss the North Korean situations. China's state run news agency saying that, "Last night's call reiterating their desire for a resolution through dialogue."

Let's head to Beijing now and talk with CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver about all of this, this morning. Good morning to you, Lisa, or evening to you there -- tell me about this phone call, what is the sense that you're getting from Beijing on the significance of this call.

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly no details about what exactly what was discussed were revealed. The state run news agency report simply said that, "Both sides discussed issues of common concern, and that those issues have everything to do with the escalating crisis in North Korea."

China's response focused for the most part on its long-standing policy that the way to resolve this crisis is through peaceful dialogue and that specifically the United States and North Korea need to do so through the framework agreed to in 1994. Now, under that agreement of course, North Korea was to freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for fuel oil from the United States -- the oil has been cut off, and so have contacts between Washington and Pyongyang. That fact seems to be the most alarming factor to Chinese officials here, who tend to talk more about what other countries should do, rather than detail what they are doing.

Now, China of course, has been under increasing diplomatic pressure, because it is in the best position to do so -- it has a border that it shares with North Korea, it has a long history of ideological alliance, if you will, dating back to the times that even Beijing was diplomatically isolated. Of course, China's priorities have changed a lot since then, but China remains one of the few places that North Korean leaders travel too.

So, with those special links in mind, U.S. officials over the course of last several weeks have come through Beijing to try to urge the Chinese officials to wield whatever influence they can, with North Korea. Now, sources familiar those ongoing efforts have said that in general, the Chinese attitude is very open, they're willing to help, the will is there, what's not as clear is exactly what is being achieved, for instance, we don't really know how many unilateral meetings China may have had with North Korea and what was really discussed, or what was affected in those meeting -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you -- that was Lisa Rose Weaver from Beijing. Thank you, Lisa.

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