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North, South Korea Reconciliation Talks Stall - 2002-04-04


Peace talks between North and South Korea in Pyongyang appear to have run in to difficulties. South Korea says that no progress was made after North Korea accused Seoul and Washington of war-mongering.

North Korea on Thursday denounced South Korea and the United States for creating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It said that North-South reconciliation is facing a serious crisis because of what it calls bellicose forces, adding that both the United States and the South are to blame for trying to provoke a war.

Pyongyang's comments were reported on North Korean state-run media following the first day of talks Wednesday between the two Koreas. Lim Dong-won, a presidential envoy from South Korea, arrived in Pyongyang Wednesday for the three day meeting, the first public contacts between the two sides since November.

Moon Chung-in, a professor of international relations at Seoul's Yonsei University, says the North's comments come as no surprise to him. "It was very much expected. Always whenever South Korea and North Korea negotiate they start from the position of difference and then they narrow their differences through negotiation. I believe Mr. Lim Dong-won will be seeing Chairman Kim Jong Il, let us see what happens after that meeting," Mr. Moon said. The inter-Korean peace talks are complicated by tense relations between Washington and Pyongyang after the Bush Administration said in January that the communist state comprised part of an "axis of evil" determined to acquired weapons of mass destruction. North and South Korea are also mired in a stalemate. They held an emotional summit nearly two years ago, but since then they have made little progress towards peace.

Despite Pyongyang's invective Thursday, it has also tentatively indicated that it may be ready to restart talks with Washington. In what is viewed an overture towards the United States, North Korea said Wednesday that it will resume dialogue with The Korean Energy Development Organization, or KEDO, a U.S. led international consortium building two nuclear reactors in the North. The project is part of a 1994 agreement between Pyongyang and Washington under which the Stalinist state vowed to freeze it suspected nuclear weapons program.

U.S. officials on Wednesday said Washington wants to resume talks on broader security issues, not just the North Korean nuclear power project.

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