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Russia Calls for More Talks on N. Korea Nuclear Crisis - 2003-09-01

Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has joined South Korea in calling for a new round of talks about the North Korean nuclear crisis. Meanwhile, the North Korean embassy in Moscow released a statement critical of the United States for its position at the inconclusive six-nation talks held in Beijing last week.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov described last week's discussions as just "the first round" in an ongoing debate about North Korea's alleged nuclear program.

He says Russia never expected a breakthrough at the Beijing talks, which brought together officials of both Koreas, Japan, Russia, China, and the United States. The discussions ended without concrete progress, other than an agreement to meet again at an unspecified future date. During the weekend, North Korea's official news agency cast doubt on the usefulness of further talks, saying that Washington's hard-line stance on the issue made it pointless to continue talking.

South Korea has said this statement may be just a bargaining tactic by North Korea, as other countries try to find a way to convince Pyongyang to abandon its attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

North Korea kept up its bellicose rhetoric, releasing another statement in Moscow, accusing the United States of playing games and, in Pyongyang's words, showing no readiness to drop its hostile policy toward North Korea. The statement, released on Russia's Interfax news agency, added the north must continue to develop its nuclear-deterrent force.

Russia's chief negotiator at the Beijing talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, said the three days of discussions yielded a highly meaningful exchange of views. He was quoted by ITAR-Tass news agency as saying the six countries in Beijing had tentatively agreed to meet again next month or in November.

Both top Russian diplomats insist that dialogue is the only way to restore stability to the divided Korean peninsula.

The current crisis began last October when the United States said North Korea admitted that it had a nuclear weapons program. The tension worsened early this year when Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked U.N. nuclear inspectors out of the country.