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IN THE NEWS - October 26, 2002: APEC Meeting and North Korea - 2002-10-25

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In The News.

Leaders from many nations are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in the holiday area of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

APEC was established in nineteen-eighty-nine as a trade group for the nations of Asia and the Americas. It was formed in reaction to the growing dependency among economies of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. Its goal was to support economic growth among those countries and to create a sense of community. APEC has twenty-one member economies. The combined population of APEC countries is about two-and-one-half-thousand-million people. The countries are responsible for almost half of all world trade.

APEC foreign and trade ministers started talks earlier this week. On Thursday, the foreign ministers approved a joint statement that promised to suppress the financing of terrorism. The statement also promised to strengthen security for air travel and shipping of goods.

President Bush and leaders of other APEC countries are meeting this weekend. Reports say Mister Bush will be trying to gain support for his campaigns against terrorism and its supporters and against Iraq. APEC leaders also are expected to discuss the latest situation involving North Korea.

Earlier this month, the United States announced that North Korea had admitted it is secretly developing nuclear weapons. The admission reportedly came during talks between a high level North Korean official and an American special diplomat. The diplomat reportedly had presented the official with American intelligence evidence about the suspected weapons program.

A North Korean nuclear weapons program would violate an agreement between the two countries. In nineteen-ninety-four, North Korea agreed to halt its suspected weapons program. In exchange, the United States said it would provide North Korea with nuclear power reactors and supplies of heating fuel.

North Korea says it does not believe the United States has honored the agreement. Experts say North Korea considered the agreement a promise by the United States to end hostile relations and establish normal relations. And, experts say that the relationship between the two countries has worsened in the last two years.

North Korea says it wants new talks with the United States about the agreement. On Tuesday, North Korean officials threatened to take strong action if the United States would not agree to negotiations. However, North Korea did not say what form such action would take.

The Bush administration has suggested that the issue can be settled through diplomatic action. But, administration officials have not answered the call for talks. They say the United States will decide what steps to take after APEC leaders discuss the issue.

This VOA Special English program In The News was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.