Clinton: U.S. Needs Korea Pact

Former President Clinton urged Washington on Friday to sign a nonaggression pact with North Korea to help end a yearlong standoff over the communist state's nuclear weapons program.

Speaking before a crowd of South Korean politicians and celebrities, Mr. Clinton said he hoped six-nation talks on the nuclear crisis would produce a "verifiable" agreement in which impoverished North Korea would give up its nuclear and missile ambitions in return for food, energy and other economic aid.

"And I would include an agreement between the United States and North Korea on nonaggression because I don't think our country will ever be aggressive against anyone who did not violate an agreement first," Mr. Clinton said.

"I don't think that we'd lose much by giving them an agreement that requires good conduct on their behalf as well as ours," he added. "That is what I hope and believe can be done."

The Bush administration has ruled out a nonaggression treaty with North Korea, but has offered to provide written security assurances in return for the dismantling of its nuclear program.

While Mr. Clinton was in office, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement in 1994 in which the North promised to freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for better ties and economic aid.

But that accord collapsed and a crisis flared when U.S. officials said in October 2002 that North Korea had admitted running a secret nuclear program.

Washington and its allies later cut off shipments of free fuel oil. North Korea then announced that it was extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods to build more bombs, in addition to the one or two the CIA believes the North already processed.

"If there is no other way (for North Korea) to make a living, the temptations of selling these bombs and missiles are very great," Mr. Clinton said.

Conservative foreign policy analysts have faulted the Clinton-Korea deal for being a failed attempt to bribe Pyongyang into compliance, saying Mr. Clinton was too eager to add success in the Koreas to his resume of apparent foreign policy achievements in the Mideast and Northern Ireland. As he neared the end of his term, Mr. Clinton was considering a visit to the North — a country that is still technically at war with the South Korea — but no visit took place.

When President Bush entered office, he suspended ongoing talks with North Korea.

The North claims the Bush administration's support for preemptive war, its labeling North Korea part of an "axis of evil," and its repeated inclusion of North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, give it reason to fear a United States invasion.

The communist North is believed to already have built one or two atomic bombs and recently said it extracted plutonium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods to build more.

A top U.S. envoy will meet with senior South Korean officials next week to prepare for a fresh round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the South Korean foreign ministry said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly will meet officials from South Korea's presidential office and the foreign ministry during his three-day visit starting next Wednesday, the ministry said in a statement.

Kelly, who led the American delegation during the first round of multination talks on the nuclear crisis, is expected to visit Tokyo and Beijing before arriving in Seoul.

Earlier this week, South Korea and China expressed optimism that more talks would be held before the end of the year.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo vowed Friday to peacefully resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions and arrange the new talks, but gave no word on when more negotiations might be held.

Dai, who was in Tokyo to discuss the nuclear dispute, told Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that China was working to schedule a meeting soon, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

Kawaguchi pushed China to include North Korea's past practice of abducting Japanese nationals on the agenda of upcoming talks. The ministry spokesman would not comment on Dai's response.

China hosted the first round of talks — which also involved the United States, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia — in Beijing in August. That meeting ended without an agreement on when to resume talks.

China, North Korea's leading ally, has been trying to jump-start the second round. Last month, it helped persuade Pyongyang to agree "in principle" to return to the negotiating table.

Separately, North Korea on Friday berated South Korea for planning to deploy U.S.-made missiles near the border, calling them part of a U.S. plot to trigger a "nuclear holocaust" on the peninsula.

Early this month, South Korea said it would start deploying the Army Tactical Missile System Block 1A missiles next month near the border with the North. The missile, which has a range of 186 miles, can reach Pyongyang and targets further north, including North Korea's main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, where the country says it is using spent nuclear fuel rods to make atomic bombs.

The deployment would exacerbate military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, said KCNA, Pyongyang's official news agency.

North Korea, which often issues such belligerent statements, has deployed missiles capable of covering all South Korea and parts of Japan. It alarmed the region in 1998 by firing a new long-range missile that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific.