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N. Korea Denounces Atomic Energy Agency Report

March 19, 1994|From Times Wire Services

SEOUL — North Korea sharply assailed the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday for reporting that Pyongyang had hindered the agency's inspection of its nuclear facilities and promised to respond to any "pressure" with "a resolute measure."

In response, President Clinton said Friday that the United States may reinstate plans for military maneuvers with South Korea and send Patriot missiles there.

Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had urged new defensive preparations for U.S. forces in South Korea.

And Seoul, in a turnaround, said it was ready to accept the Patriots and hold the maneuvers.

Early today, talks between South and North Korea broke down after officials from the North walked out. The talks had been aimed at the eventual exchange of envoys to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program.

On Friday, in a statement monitored by radio in Tokyo and Seoul, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency insisted that the IAEA rescind this week's report stating that North Korea had hindered inspection of its nuclear facilities when an IAEA team visited the country March 1-14.

North Korea has a battery of nuclear research facilities at the bend of a river in Yongbyong, about 60 miles north of Pyongyang.

After a long standoff, North Korea agreed Feb. 15 to allow inspectors from the IAEA to visit Yongbyong and check for signs of a weapons program. In return, the United States and South Korea agreed to suspend the annual joint military exercises known as "Team Spirit" for this year, and Washington scheduled a new round of direct talks with North Korea.

But when the inspection team arrived, it was denied access to sites necessary to determine whether North Korea is stockpiling plutonium that could be used for bombs.

Clinton told reporters that he still is hopeful that North Korea will change course and permit full inspection of its nuclear facilities, resume nuclear talks with the South and end its isolation from the world community.

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