SEATTLE -- U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in a conciliatory move keyed to the opening of foreign ministers' meetings at the Pacific Rim summit, said yesterday that the United States is committed to a "diplomatic solution" to the North Korean nuclear standoff and is not yet ready to seek international economic sanctions against North Korea.
Mr. Christopher's statement means the administration is putting off for at least a few weeks carrying out its threats to seek tough U.N. Security Council action against North Korea if it fails to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection.
Some critics have complained that the United States is permitting North Korea to use negotiations as a delaying tactic. Japan and South Korea have generally favored a go-slow approach to seeking sanctions, though their governments are divided on the issue and their official positions have sometimes oscillated between tougher and less confrontational.
Mr. Christopher, making clear that his remarks were aimed in part at North Korean President Kim Il Sung, said, "We urge North Korea to join the community of responsible nations by responding to the comments that I have made here today."
Over the past few weeks, North Korea has refused to meet a series of deadlines for allowing inspections of its nuclear plants, which intelligence agencies suspect are being used to reprocess plutonium for weapons, and the Clinton administration held a top-level meeting Monday to try to work out what to do next.
Yesterday, while Mr. Christopher signaled further delay, he also warned that if the Clinton administration does go to the Security Council, it believes it will get support from China, North Korea's longtime ally.
A senior South Korean official, who asked not to be identified, said President Kim Young Sam will urge President Clinton to stick to earlier demands that North Korea accept a series of conditions before embarking on a new round of diplomatic negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
tTCHD: U.S. puts off sanctions against North Korea