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South Korea Urges North Korea to End Nuclear Weapons Program - 2002-10-20

South Korea has urged the North to meet its international obligations and end its nuclear weapons program. The call came during the first tense day of ministerial talks in Pyongyang. This was the first inter-Korean meeting since the United States last week revealed that North Korea has violated a 1994 agreement and admitted to a covert nuclear weapons program.

South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun has urged the North to give up its nuclear ambitions, during the first day of meetings with North Korean officials.

Pool reports from Pyongyang describe the exchanges as difficult and said the North Korean side refused to explicitly confirm that Pyongyang was pursing a nuclear program.

The two sides exchanged testy remarks in front of reporters. The South Korean Minister said his mood was as gloomy at the weather in Pyongyang. The North Korean representative rebuffed his concerns. Kim Ryong Song insisted that the North would go its own way, despite what he described as "a wind from the West. He said South Korean worries would evaporate if the two Koreas cooperated more closely and moved on.

The scheduled talks were due to have focused on promoting inter-Korean reconciliation, but they have been overshadowed by the nuclear issue.

The comments were the first official response from Pyongyang to U.S. reports that North Korea has admitted to a covert uranium enrichment program during an early October meeting with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.

Speaking to journalists in Seoul Saturday, Mr. Kelly said Washington and its allies would exert maximum pressure on Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program. He did not set any deadline nor did he say what action would be taken if diplomacy failed.

Continued North Korean pursuit of nuclear weapons is in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework signed by the North in which it agreed to scrap its nuclear program in return for two light water reactors to generate power. Mr. Kelly said he was told by North Korean officials that they considered the accord nullified. "The purpose of the Agreed Framework was to eliminate North Korea's nuclear program and to bring it back into full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty," he said. "And we haven't made any decision since we were informed it was nullified and that's what we are doing now, consulting with the U.S. Congress and with our allies about next steps and President Bush has not made any decision about what those next steps would be."

As part of that consultation process, Mr. Kelly has been speaking with Chinese, South Korean and Japanese officials, before flying back to Washington.