SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun planned to dispatch an envoy to Washington early next week, as the United States reportedly contemplated deploying more troops to cope with an increasing nuclear menace from North Korea.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said it could not confirm a CBS News report that the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific has asked for about 2,000 more troops, mostly Air Force personnel, to join 37,000 U.S. troops already in South Korea.
``We have not been informed of such a plan,'' said a ministry spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. ``We expect the U.S. to discuss such a plan with us if it has one.''
In Honolulu, Navy Cmdr. John Fleming declined to confirm or deny the report, saying it was military policy not to discuss future plans.
The reported move came amid signs that North Korea may be getting ready to produce nuclear weapons.
The South Korean president-elect hopes to coordinate his North Korea policy with Washington even before he takes office on Feb. 25.
During his three-day trip that begins Monday, Roh's envoy, Chyung Dai-chul, will meet Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Park Jin-hyung, an official in Chyung's office.
Chyung, a senior member of Roh's Millennium Democratic Party, also expects to meet with President Bush, Park said.
Chyung told South Korean reporters that he will carry Roh's letter to Bush. Roh advocates resolving the nuclear standoff through dialogue.
After the Washington trip, the envoy plans to stop in Tokyo to meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other senior Japanese leaders.
U.S. officials said Friday that spy satellites have detected covered trucks apparently taking on cargo at the North's main nuclear facility, where spent nuclear fuel rods are stored.
When processed, enough plutonium could be extracted from the 8,000 rods to make four or five nuclear weapons, they said.
Analysts were divided over whether North Korea was trying to reprocess the rods to make bombs or just bluffing to bring the United States to the negotiating table.
North Korea took its first steps to reactivate Yongbyon after Washington and its allies suspended oil shipments to the North. The shipments were stopped when U.S. officials said the North had admitted having a nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement.
The North has since expelled U.N. monitors and withdrew from an international nuclear arms control treaty.
Despite mounting international pressure, North Korea remains defiant.
The North's leader, Kim Jong Il, visited a military unit Friday and was ``greatly satisfied to see all the servicemen trained as indomitable fighters capable of wiping out the aggressors by resolute and merciless blows,'' said the North's state-run KCNA news agency.
The United States wants to bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council, which could eventually impose sanctions on the impoverished North.