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North Korea Stays Mum on Nuclear Weapons as Talks Open With South


North and South Korea have formally opened high-level talks in Seoul, but delegates from the North are remaining silent so far about Pyongyang's commitment to dismantle its nuclear programs. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from the South Korean capital.

At Wednesday's opening session of minister-level talks between the two Koreas, South Korea told the North the two countries' relationship depends on Pyongyang implementing a promise it made in February to begin shutting down its nuclear weapons program.

Koh Kyoung-bin is a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry.

Koh says in Wednesday's opening remarks, South Korean delegates told the North that mutual trust and cooperation is linked to Pyongyang's implementation of the February nuclear agreement.

Pyongyang promised during talks in Beijing with South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States that it would shut down its main nuclear production facility within 60 days.

That deadline passed without action more than a month-and-a-half ago, however, with Pyongyang citing a technical banking issue involving funds frozen in a Macau bank as the reason for its delay.

Spokesman Koh says the North Korean delegates made no mention whatsoever of the nuclear issue in their opening remarks Wednesday.

He says the only verbal references of any kind to the nuclear issue at the Wednesday morning session came from the South Korean side.

North Korea also did not initially bring up a South Korean promise of massive aid in the form of rice and light industrial supplies. South Korean officials have said they would delay shipping that aid until Pyongyang starts implementing the February agreement.

Instead, North Korea spoke favorably about the range of inter-Korean joint projects that have been established since the two countries held their first and only summit in 2000. Koh says the North Korean delegates urged the South to keep inter-Korean relations independent of influence from "outside powers."

He says the North Koreans called on the South to stop antagonizing the North by staging joint military drills with the United States.

The United States stations about 28,000 troops here in South Korea to deter a repeat of North Korea's 1950 invasion. The three-year war that resulted from that invasion has never come to a formal end: fighting was halted by a "temporary" armistice in 1953.

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