North Korea Rejects U.N. Mediation in Nuclear Standoff

The state-run news agency, KCNA, said the U.N. had no place in the debate about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is not something that should be discussed at the United Nations. The U.N. seems to have lost its mandate because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq,” the agency reported.

The Security Council has agreed to meet on April 9 for closed-door discussions on the nuclear crisis. The meeting was scheduled after reportedly heavy U.S. lobbying for a Security Council statement condemning North Korea’s drive for nuclear arms.

China, a veto-wielding member on the council and North Korea’s neighbor, has said it would reject any such statement.

The threat of economic sanctions against North Korea, although still debated by some, appear unlikely since both China and Russia have said they oppose any punitive measure.

North Korea has said that U.N.-imposed sanctions would be interpreted as a declaration of war. It maintained direct talks with the U.S. as the only acceptable resolution to the dispute.

North Korea’s statement comes a day after President Bush spoke with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. The American leader pledged his continued commitment to a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“The two leaders reiterated their intention to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue peacefully, and pledged to continue their close consultation,” said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

President Bush warned North Korea in his 2002 State of the Union address that its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its willingness to proliferate those weapons had made the communist state a member of the “Axis of Evil” along with Iran and Iraq.

The latest nuclear standoff began in October 2002 with North Korea’s admission that it continued to pursue nuclear weapons in spite of a 1994 Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty between the two states. The Agreed Framework allowed for a warming of economic and political relations, including the beginning of fuel oil shipments and the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors, in return for North Korea ending its nuclear program.

Soon after the admission, the U.S. cut off fuel shipments. North Korea responded by stepping up its race for expanded nuclear capabilities. It expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and withdrew from the 1994 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Later North Korea reactivated its dormant Yongbyon power plant, which is capable of producing nuclear bombs.

North Korea has claimed that the United States planned military action against it following war with Iraq.