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US Lawmaker Pushes North Korea to Resume Nuclear Talks


US Congressman Tom Lantos has urged North Korea to return to multi-national negotiations on its nuclear weapons program as soon as possible.

U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, who had been in Pyongyang since Saturday, met the Supreme People's Assembly vice president and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun. He told reporters in Beijing that North Korean leaders are still hesitant to commit to future six-nation talks, but say they support the dialogue process.

"They indicated they support continuing the six-party talks, but they say they are waiting to see the shape of the second Bush administration before committing to return to the table,” he noted. “I indicated to them the shape of that administration is now perfectly clear."

Mr. Lantos says he told the North Korean leadership that there is no conceivable reason for anyone to expect a significant change on U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea attended three rounds of talks hosted by China and including officials from South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. No progress was made.

North Korea has refused to attend a fourth round since September, continually citing what it calls hostile U.S. policy.

Mr. Lantos says he rejects Pyongyang's explanation.

"I told the North Koreans, that contrary to their repeated statements, our administration and our congress has no hostile intent towards North Korea,” he said. “Instead we remained prepared to negotiate a comprehensive and verifiable deal with the North."

North Korea also has been demanding massive aid and a security guarantee from the United States before it will consider dismantling its nuclear programs. Washington has rejected preconditions, demanding North Korea first abide by its international agreements to be nuclear free.

Tensions between North Korea and the United States flared in October 2002 when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted to having a secret nuclear-weapons program.

Experts say North Korea may now have more than eight nuclear weapons.

Separately, a second U.S. congressional group led by representative Curt Weldon is in North Korea, also trying to convince its leaders to return to multi-lateral talks. The two visits are not part of official efforts to press the North to dismantle its nuclear programs, but have the Bush administration's support.

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