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Roh 'Sure' Nuclear Talks With North Korea Will Resume

  • Kurt Achin

South Korea's president says he is sure that multinational negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear programs will resume. He and other world leaders threw their support behind diplomacy with the North at a conference marking a historic North-South meeting.

President Roh Moo-hyun says the next round of nuclear talks will be "more proactive" in persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Roh urges North Korea to decide now to give up its nuclear arms, which he says would lay the groundwork for increased economic growth.

For a year, North Korea has boycotted nuclear talks, which also involve Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. Despite previous pledges not to build nuclear weapons, it says it will continue to add to its nuclear arsenal.

President Bush (r) meets with South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun
The president's comments Monday came just days after he met with President Bush in Washington and discussed ways to get Pyongyang back to the table. On Friday, the two leaders re-affirmed their commitment to ending the standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions through diplomacy.

Mr. Roh was speaking Monday at a Seoul conference marking five years since former President Kim Dae-jung's historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

That June 2000 meeting was widely viewed as a triumph for President Kim's policy of engagement with the North, known as the Sunshine Policy, which the present government is continuing.

At the same conference, former President Kim said a nuclear-armed North Korea cannot be accepted, and urged the United States to offer Pyongyang security guarantees to give them up.

Mr. Kim said if the North does not completely give up its nuclear weapons after receiving U.S. security pledges, then the United States and its partners should take "stern but peaceful" measures.

North Korea has never responded to a package of security and economic offers Washington made last June. The Bush administration has ruled out offering additional inducements to North Korea before it returns to the bargaining table.

Pyongyang says it is boycotting the talks because of what it calls a hostile U.S. attitude - the state news media have said repeatedly that Washington plans to attack the country. President Bush says the United States has no intention of attacking.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke to Monday's conference in a videotaped message. He says he believes the North wants to use nuclear weapons as a negotiating tool, rather than a tool of war.

Mr. Gorbachev said he thinks the Pyongyang regime is concerned about its future, and wants to avoid having its weaknesses exploited.

A South Korean delegation heads to Pyongyang Tuesday to attend celebrations of the 2000 summit anniversary. Next week, the two countries hold cabinet level talks in Seoul. The South is expected to use both occasions to urge Pyongyang to return to nuclear negotiations.

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