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Rice, S. Korea Urge N. Korea To Rejoin Nuke Talks

Standing side-by-side with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon here in Seoul Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged North Korea to make a "strategic decision" to return to six-party nuclear talks.

She said she and Foreign Minister Ban agreed to maximize their efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs peacefully and diplomatically. "We also agreed that the six-party talks are the best way for North Korea to receive the respect that it desires and the assistance that it needs," she added.

North Korea last month pulled out of the talks with the United States, South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan. Again citing a "hostile attitude" by the United States, Pyongyang said it planned to build more nuclear weapons for its defense.

Before it will return to the talks, North Korea is demanding an apology for Ms. Rice's description of the North several weeks ago as an "outpost of tyranny." It has previously insisted on massive aid, direct talks with Washington and formal security guarantees.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said all of North Korea's concerns will be addressed at the negotiating table. Mr. Ban said the six-party talks could permit direct dialogue between North Korea and the United States.

Secretary Rice agreed that one-on-one dialogue with North Korea could occur in the six-party format, but ruled out separate bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang. "When we're at the table, we're talking to each other -- everyone can't talk at once, so, of course, we're talking to each other. But this is in a six-party framework," she said.

The United States insists any resolution needs to involve Asian powers.

Ms. Rice repeated Washington's assertion it has no intention of invading or attacking North Korea. She said only successful six-party talks could lead to security assurances for Pyongyang, as well as aid for the North's devastated economy.

North Korea has attended three rounds of talks in Beijing since the United States accused the Communist nation in 2002 of having illicit nuclear weapons programs in violation of numerous international agreements. There has been no progress on disarmament, and North Korea claims to have several bombs.