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Koreas Agree to Peaceful Resolution of N. Korean Nuclear Program - 2002-10-23


North and South Korea have agreed to the peaceful resolution of North Korea's nuclear program, through dialogue. The announcement came in a joint statement released following three full days of ministerial talks in Pyongyang. The statement was delayed by disagreement over the final wording of the declaration.

The two Koreas have pledged to actively cooperate to solve the nuclear and other issues, through discussion. The head of the North Korea delegation Kim Ryong Song made the terms of the agreement public to journalists covering the talks in Pyongyang. Mr Kim said that in order to guarantee peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the South and North would actively cooperate in resolving all issues, including the nuclear issue, through dialogue.

The joint statement had been expected on Tuesday after three full days of meetings, but pool reports suggest the two sides were divided over the language of the final agreement. The reports suggest Pyongyang wanted a clause blaming the U.S. for the nuclear crisis while South Korea demanded an explicit commitment by Pyongyang, that it would immediately dismantle its nuclear program.

After late night discussions, the final declaration was adopted by the two sides early Wednesday morning.

A visit to Pyongyang, by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly in early October, prompted the revelation that North Korea had admitted to a uranium enrichment program for use in nuclear weapons.

The United States has demanded an immediate and visible dismantling of the nuclear program, without preconditions. They have been joined in that call by North Korea's neighbours, South Korea and Japan. China also urged North Korea to hold talks with the United States and encouraged Pyongyang to abide by a 1994 agreement not to develop nuclear weapons.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the agreement had helped maintain peace on the Korean peninsula.

The discussions in Pyongyang had been scheduled to discuss inter-Korean projects to promote reconciliation between the two former enemies, but the meeting was largely overshadowed by the nuclear issue.

During the talks in Pyongyang, the North Korea's number two leader said Monday, that North Korea would be willing to negotiate over security concerns if the United States dropped its hostile attitude.

In the final declaration, the two Koreas also agreed to start work on an industrial park in Kaesung, just across the border in North Korea. They also said they would hold talks on allowing ships to travel peacefully through the waters around the peninsula.

In the past few years, there have been a number of naval clashes between vessels from North and South Korea. The agreement further pledged to promote travel by civilians through the rail system which is currently being reconnected across the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas.

However the South Korean President, Kim Dae Jung, may find it increasingly difficult to further promote his policy of engaging North Korea. There has been an angry backlash against the North following the U.S. reports of Pyongyang's nuclear program.

North and South Korean ministers have agreed to a further meeting in January next year.

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