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North Korea Delays Return to Nuclear Talks

  • Luis Ramirez

North Korea has again delayed its return to nuclear disarmament talks - and says they will resume in two weeks. North Korean officials say military exercises between the United States and South Korea are one cause for the delay. The six-nation talks had been due to resume this week in Beijing.

The official North Korean news agency says the nuclear disarmament talks will begin the week of September 12.

Earlier, North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun said his nation would delay returning to the six-party negotiations because of the annual war games between the United States and South Korea. But he said the talks could resume by the end of September if - in his words - "things are going well."

North Korea has always opposed the yearly exercises, calling them a rehearsal for a planned U.S. invasion of North Korea.

The reason is one of a long list that Pyongyang has given for staying away from negotiations, which were to resume in Beijing this week.

Last week, North Korea said it opposed the Bush administration's recent naming of a special envoy to monitor human rights in the communist country.

Previously, North Korea had cited what it said was a "hostile" U.S. attitude for its refusal to return to talks.

International relations professor, Shen Dingli, at Shanghai's Fudan University, says lack of trust continues to be an obstacle.

"They agreed a year ago that they would return to a fourth round, but they have delayed the process for 13 months. So, we still need to see how North Korea can persuade us that in the future, it will honor its word," said Shen Dingli.

Negotiations with China, South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia began in 2003 as an effort to defuse a crisis that flared nearly three-years ago. That was when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted to having nuclear-weapons programs in violation of international agreements.

After a third round of talks ended in June 2004, North Korea refused to return for 13 months. Pyongyang agreed to come back at the end of July after South Korea promised massive energy aid if progress were made.

That fourth round of talks recessed three-weeks ago due to a deadlock over the North's new demands to retain non-military nuclear programs.

Host China has sent a senior envoy to Pyongyang to try to bring the North Koreans back to the table. Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei downplayed the delay, saying the date for the talks is not important as long as all parties agreed to resume them.

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