WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is keeping the door open to suggestions from its allies on how to deal with North Korea's nuclear program, but any solution must begin with a weapons freeze.
Responding to reports that South Korean President-elect Roh Moon-hyun will offer North Korea and the United States a compromise to end the nuclear standoff, a senior U.S. official said Friday the administration looked forward to sharing ideas with South Korea and Japan at a meeting in Washington next Monday and Tuesday.
The idea is to move forward, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In Seoul, the head of Roh's transition team told a television interviewer that his compromise plan would require concessions both from President Bush and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Details were not released.
The North Korean ambassador to China insisted, meanwhile, that Pyongyang would not bend until the United States agreed to a nonaggression treaty.
The U.S. official said Friday that South Korea, Japan and the United States all had declared they had no intention to attack North Korea.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has ruled out a nonaggression treaty, saying it would amount to a reward for North Korea to halt its moves to build new nuclear weapons.
One idea under consideration in South Korea, the Yonhap news agency reported, is exchanging North Korea's abandonment of the nuclear program for a written guarantee of security from the United States.
But the U.S. position remains that any agreement must begin with North Korea halting its program first, the senior official said.
On Thursday, Bush took a break from his Texas vacation to rebuke North Korean leader Kim, saying he had "no heart for somebody who starves his folks."
Still, Bush said anew he was confident a peaceful conclusion can be reached in the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
During Roh's successful presidential campaign, he told the South Korean people he intended to correct relations with Washington in a way that gave South Korea a larger role.
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly is due to fly to Seoul next week to talk to the new government about the relationship and North Korea.
In Seoul on Friday, the head of Roh's transition team, Lim Chae-jung, said both Bush and Kim would need to make concessions.
"The president-elect plans to present his own solution around the middle of this month," Lim said.
Roh, who will call on Bush shortly after his Feb. 25 inauguration, is taking "a very cautious approach" because it is "a matter that affects the destiny of our people," Lim said.