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US, S. Korean Diplomats Discuss Possible Security Assurances for North - 2003-11-20


Senior South Korean and U.S. diplomats began going over the wording of a proposed security guarantee for North Korea. Pyongyang demands a guarantee in return for abandoning its nuclear weapons programs.

South Korean Assistant Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck says he and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly discussed possible wording for a "documented security assurance" for North Korea. He emphasized, however, that the contents are not finalized. He said Thursday it is not clear what North Korea wants in the document.

A security guarantee from the United States has been one of North Korea's key demands in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons programs. Last month, Pyongyang said it would consider President Bush's offer of a written assurance from Washington as well as North Korea's neighbors. Previously North Korea had demanded a non-aggression treaty with the United States, which Washington ruled out.

After arriving in Seoul late Wednesday, Mr. Kelly said that the security guarantee offer to Pyongyang still stands. Mr. Kelly earlier in the week held talks in Beijing and Tokyo. His Asian trip is part of efforts by U.S. and Chinese diplomats to get North Korea to resume talks to give up its nuclear programs. He leaves Seoul on Friday.

After the first six-way meeting in Beijing in August ended without a breakthrough, North Korea said it was not interested in further talks. However, last month it changed its stance after talks with Chinese leaders. Still, no date for a new round has been set, although many diplomats expect talks to take place in Beijing sometime next month.

Mr. Kelly is to meet in Washington next week with Russia's top North Korean envoy, the deputy foreign minister, Alexander Losykov.

The nuclear crisis flared 13 months ago after U-S officials said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of international accords.

North Korea on Thursday described U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to South Korea this week as criminal and referred to him as a "war servant." During the visit, the defense secretary discussed a deployment of South Korean troops to Iraq, as well as a realignment of U.S. forces in the South.

In its commentary on Thursday, the North Korean state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the visit has made it clear that the United States has not abandoned its hostile policy towards the communist state.

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