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Korea needs 'patience'

THE United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, warned yesterday that 'patience' was needed to solve the problems on the Korean peninsula, including that of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capability.

Asked if he agreed with recent United States intelligence reports that there was 'a better than even' chance that North Korea already possesses one or two nuclear bombs, Mr Boutros-Ghali replied that he could not answer because he was not a military expert, but that 'in both South and North Korea I find a political will among the leaderships of the two countries to find a peaceful solution to the crisis'.

Mr Boutros-Ghali was in Peking, the last stop in what he described as a 'mission of goodwill' to Japan, the two Koreas and China. He said he had no mandate to mediate from the UN Security Council and had come to north-east Asia to listen to the points of view of the different actors in the crisis.

'If I have a message, my message was: continue to negotiate with the American administration, continue the dialogue between the North and the South and continue to talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. And I can say the answer was positive on both sides.' He also said he believed negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington would continue.

The two-day visit to Peking reconfirmed Chinese opposition to any forms of pressure or economic sanctions being imposed on North Korea. Mr Boutros-Ghali met the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Peng, and the Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen. China is the only major power which has close ties with the North Korean regime.

Mr Boutros-Ghali said: 'I have asked nothing of the Chinese government . . . I have received their support for this mission and the hope that we will be able to find a peaceful solution . . . Concerning the possibility of pressures against North Korea, China does not believe that pressures will help to solve the problem.'

He added: 'I believe we need patience to solve the problems.' In the short term, this was the peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis. He added: 'In the long term, it is the way to reinforce the contacts the dialogue between the North and the South to put an end to the armistice agreement, and to contribute to peace, security and mutual confidence between the two parts of the same nation, which is the Korean nation.'