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US weighs North Korea options

By RICHARD TOMKINS, UPI White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The United States is considering cutting off vital fuel oil supplies to North Korea to underline its displeasure with Pyongyang's violation of a 1994 accord not to pursue nuclear weapons and to pressure it to scrap its new program, senior administration officials said Sunday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice both emphasized the decision had not yet been made.

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The option, however, was clearly on the table in the administration's consultations with allies on how to proceed.

"We're looking at all of the things that come out of the agreed (1994) framework -- oil shipments, light-water reactors, the Korean Energy Development Organization," Powell said on Fox News Sunday. "All of these things are going to be looked at, but we're going to do it in a deliberate, sensible way working with our friends and allies in a -- how shall I put this -- multilateral way.

"... We're going to look at all of them and see what makes sense to suspend and what makes sense to just keep considering a while."

Added Rice on CBS' Face the Nation: "North Korea cannot have it both ways. You cannot re-enter the international community and brandish nuclear weapons."

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North Korea, which invaded the South in 1950, sparking a major war, admitted to U.S. diplomats earlier this month it had violated its agreement not to pursue nuclear weapons. That agreement was now null, it said.

The admission, said to have been made in an almost defiant manner, came after an initial denial that was made after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told the North Koreans the United States had evidence Pyongyang was attempting to produce enriched uranium, for use in a nuclear device.

Under the 1994 accord, North Korea agreed to stop obtaining weapons-grade plutonium from its Yongbang nuclear facility in exchange for economic aid, which the isolated nation was in desperate need. International inspectors were allowed to verify North Korea's adherence to that provision.

In return, the United States, Japan and South Korea, which has actively pursued a reconciliation policy toward the North, promised fuel oil -- some 500,000 tons -- and other economic help, including aid in building modern nuclear power facilities.

However, North Korea apparently soon began pursuing an alternate method for gaining nuclear weapons materials.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency and others, it is believed Pyongyang already has one, and possibly two, nuclear bombs.

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U.S. diplomats have said North Korea made no indication why they were disclosing their illicit program. There is some speculation it did so to elicit more aid from abroad.

Virtually isolated economically and politically, mass hunger is a feature of the country, which still maintains hundreds of thousands of troops along its border with the South.

"Let's be very clear," Rice said. "There is no doubt that the North Koreans have blown a big hole in this political agreement.

"We believe this is an opportunity to stand up together and to say to the North Koreans, 'if you have any hope of breaking out of your isolation -- your economic isolation, your political isolation -- that hope is going to be dashed by your continuing to pursue illegal nuclear weapons."

Both officials differentiated the North Korea situation from the Iraq crisis. Iraq, which the administration accuses of possessing weapons of mass destruction and of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability has already used chemical weapons against Iran and its Kurdish minority, invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990 and continues in its defiance of international disarmament accords signed following the Gulf War.

North Korea, although possessing more missiles and developing missiles that could conceivably reach parts of the western United States, is not as immediate a threat, they said.

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Both also dismissed accusations from some Democrats that the Bush administration withheld the news from Congress of North Korea's violation until last week so as not to interfere with obtaining a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

"It is a peculiar notion that the moment you find out something like this you make it public, before the president has had a chance to review his options," Rice said.

She said the president was first informed of the admission early this month, but he had not been briefed by national security staff on possible options until last Tuesday.

Also, some congressional leaders had been briefed earlier about U.S. suspicions, and updated briefings were taking place when news of Pyongyang's admission was made public.

North Korea is expected to loom large on the agenda later this week when President Bush holds talks with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. China is North Korea's main ally.

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