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S. Korea's President-Elect Seeks Peaceful Resolution of Nuke Dispute

South Korea's president-elect appealed to Russia, China and Japan on Tuesday to help find a peaceful solution to a nuclear dispute with North Korea, as an official said the North might be preparing to reactivate a reactor.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said the communist nation might be readying their 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon for reactivation.

"North Korean technicians are believed to be doing repair work at the reactor," the official, who requested anonymity, told local reporters at a briefing.

The official also said North Korean technicians had removed U.N. seals and cameras from a fourth nuclear facility, a plant that makes fuel rods. The only nuclear facilities that remain untouched are two unfinished reactors.

Over the weekend, North Korea began removing the U.N. seals and surveillance cameras from three Soviet-designed nuclear facilities that could yield weapons within months.

Of particular concern is the reopening of a storage area holding 8,000 spent fuel rods that contain enough weapons-grade plutonium to make several atomic bombs. U.S. officials suspect that North already has one or two atomic bombs.

Roh Moo-hyun, who won South Korea's presidential vote last week, met with the ambassadors from Japan, Russian and China on Tuesday to discuss the nuclear crisis.

"The president-elect requested cooperation from those concerned countries to help resolve the North's nuclear issue peacefully," said Roh's spokesman, Lee Nak-hyun.

Lee said the ambassadors -- Teymuraz Ramishvili from Russia, Li Bin from China and Terusuke Terada from Japan -- all hoped that the nuclear issue would be resolved peacefully. Their governments already have expressed support for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

In a separate meeting, Foreign Minister Choi Sung-hong briefed the president-elect on the latest international developments in nuclear tensions with the North, the spokesman said.

Roh takes office in February. He advocates dialogue to resolve nuclear issues with the North, while the United States rules out any talks before the communist state gives up its nuclear ambitions.

The North's latest moves raised fears of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula similar to one involving the same facilities in 1994, when there was a heightened possibility of war with North Korea.

Conflict was averted when North Korea agreed to freeze the facilities in a deal with the United States. But Pyongyang said on Dec. 12 that it planned to reactivate them to produce electricity because Washington had failed on a pledge to provide fuel oil for needed energy.

The United States, which is preparing for a possible war against Iraq, says it wants a peaceful solution to the nuclear problem. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned Monday that the U.S. military could simultaneously take on both Iraq and North Korea.

"We're capable of winning decisively in one and swiftly defeating in the case of the other, and let there be no doubt about it," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said, however, that no military action against North Korea was imminent.