United States officials considered an attack on North Korea before agreeing to seek a peaceful solution to the ongoing nuclear standoff, according to South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-Hyun.
Roh told a conference on Saturday night that there were high-level US discussions about a possible attack on North Korea when he was elected in December.
"When I was elected, the situation was so acute because some US officials, who held considerable responsibility in the administration, talked about the possibility of attacking North Korea," he said.
"I then thought that no matter what differences I might face with the United States, I would stop an attack on North Korea.
"Fortunately, opinion in the United States started to change to resolving the matter peacefully."
Roh, who will take office on February 25, said that North Korea may opt for security guarantees and economic aid in return for renouncing its nuclear ambitions.
"From past actions, North Korea ardently hopes for security guarantees and is aggressive in its push for reform and openesss," Roh said, while calling for international efforts to end the country's isolation.
Roh has consistently called for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis and says he supports a policy of engagement with the reclusive Stalinist regime.
The president-elect said he was ready to have "sincere and frank talks" with North Korean officials when the two Koreas hold cabinet-level rapprochement talks in Seoul this week.
US President George W. Bush, who made North Korea a charter member of his "axis of evil," has held out the prospect of economic and political support for North Korea.
Bush said last week he was considering reviving "a bold initiative, an initiative which would talk about energy and food, because we care deeply about the suffering of the North Korean people."
But a diplomatic drive has so far seen no tangible progress in the standoff which flared up in October when US envoy James Kelly said North Korea had admitted running a nuclear weapons program in breach of a 1994 accord, a charge Pyongyang denies.
North Korea, which insists the nuclear crisis is an issue for Pyongyang and Washington alone, strongly opposes US efforts to internationalize the standoff.
Such efforts have included engaging Moscow and Beijing, Pyongyang's closest allies.
The North has said it is now making preparations to reactivate a nuclear plant that had been mothballed under the Agreed Framework, after Washington suspended fuel aid that was part of the 1994 deal.
Copyright 2003 AFP