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South Korea Says 'Critical' Nuclear Talks with North Should Resume Soon

  • Kurt Achin

South Korea's newly appointed chief delegate to multinational talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program says the discussions should resume as soon as possible. Amid news of a possible deal between Pyongyang and Washington to resolve a four-month delay, South Korea says the North will reap rewards, as soon as it fully reveals its programs. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Senior South Korean diplomat Kim Sook confirmed Thursday working-level American diplomats would soon head to Pyongyang to confer on details related to a North Korean nuclear declaration.

Pyongyang is more than four months overdue in producing the document, which it promised by the end of 2007. It is a key step in a multi-phase agreement to end the North's nuclear weapons capabilities, in exchange for international aid and diplomatic incentives.

Kim says by submitting a declaration, North Korea can benefit virtually immediately.

He says the United States will take "necessary steps almost simultaneously with the submission of the declaration."

One of the key incentives Kim is referring to is removing North Korea from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. The removal would open the door for North Korea to receive international aid and investment, currently blocked by its inclusion on the list.

U.S. and South Korean officials say the main reason behind the declaration's delay is a dispute between Pyongyang and Washington over U.S. accusations the North pursued a secret uranium enrichment program - and suspicions it gave nuclear assistance to Syria.

Details of an apparent deal reached last week in Singapore between senior North Korean and American envoys have not fully emerged. However, reports say the North plans to "acknowledge" U.S. concerns in some format that falls short of an outright declaration.

Kim says negotiators will walk, in his words, the "rocky path" of verifying North Korea's nuclear declaration, even as they push the broader talks process forward. He says even a modified declaration must contain clear information.

He says, with regard to the issues of uranium enrichment and cooperation with Syria, there will be no instance of one side pretending it has made a full declaration, while the other side pretends to put faith in what is declared.

South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China have tried for five years to convince North Korea to give up nuclear weapons for economic assistance and better relations with the international community. Kim says South Korea will not permit the North, which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, to retain its nuclear arsenal.

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