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North Korean Military Proposes Direct Talks with US Military


North Korea's state-run news agency says Pyongyang is proposing direct military talks with the United States.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday that the talks would deal with peace and security issues on the Korean peninsula. North Korea proposes the discussions include a U.N. representative.

The United States has had no immediate response to the proposal.

A team of U.N. nuclear inspectors has left for North Korea to monitor the shutdown of the country's main nuclear reactor. The inspectors' mission begins Sunday and will be the first time in almost five years that North Korea will work with experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he is optimistic the process will run smoothly. However, he said shutting down Pyongyang's nuclear program will be a "long process" that will depend on the progress of the six-party talks.

China's Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that the six-nation talks to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program will resume July 18th in Beijing.

A South Korean ship is on its way to North Korea to deliver fuel aid that the South promised to North Korea during six-nation talks in February. The ship left Ulsan, South Korea Thursday with the first 6,200 tons of an initial 50,000 ton consignment of heavy fuel oil.

Pyongyang says it will begin shutting down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor once the initial shipment of fuel arrives.

In February, Pyongyang pledged to shut its main nuclear reactor and dismantle its nuclear-weapons programs in exchange for fuel aid and political incentives.

Negotiations between the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States, and Russia have been going on since 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

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