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South Korea Seeks Talks as North Takes Dramatic Self-Isolation Steps


South Korea says it wants dialogue with North Korea as soon as possible. The North has taken several dramatic steps to isolate itself from South Korea, and possibly from the United States and even China. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from Seoul.

South Korea says the United States will contact North Korea soon to discuss the latest snag in efforts to get rid of the North's nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang says inspections to verify the accuracy of a nuclear declaration it made earlier this year will be limited only to field visits, and that no samples of nuclear material will be allowed to leave the country.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says the North is not living up to the nuclear verification deal it agreed to recently with the United States.

He says the North Korean announcement is a direct contradiction of what South Korea and the United States have understood up to now. He expresses South Korea's regret about that.

The North's nuclear move comes alongside several other apparent steps to isolate itself. Officials in Beijing were unable to confirm a media report Thursday citing travel agents that North Korea is restricting travel by visitors across its border with China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang says he has not heard of any abnormal situation on the North Korean border, but will investigate.

North Korean media has informed its citizens about a border warning it issued to South Korea this week.

A North Korean newsreader says as of December 1, the country will prohibit crossings of the military demarcation line which separates the two Koreas.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun says Pyongyang has suspended crucial telephone lines that help the two Koreas carry out basic communication.

He says North Korea has blocked telephone landlines between authorities and the International Red Cross at the North-South border village of Panmunjeom. Now, he says, the North will not even accept test calls.

The two Koreas are technically at war. Only a temporary 1953 armistice halted fighting three years after the North invaded the South.

North Korea has repeatedly warned the South in recent weeks to prevent civic groups from launching balloon-borne leaflets into the North's territory. The leaflets are severely critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and contain highly sensitive information about his prolonged public absence and possible recovery from a stroke he may have suffered earlier this year.

South Korea's Defense Ministry says it managed to fax a message to the North saying it is trying to stop the leaflet launches. Lee Sang-cheol is the Ministry's director of North Korea policy.

He says he hopes talks can be arranged with North Korea soon.

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