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Consultation Talks to Center Around N. Korea


Officials from Japan, South Korea and the United States will meet in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to discuss a second round of multiparty talks on resolving a long-running standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons. Talks with the communist state have stalled for months because of disagreements among the six nations involved.

South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold consultations this week to try to clear the way for more six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons development.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck said Tuesday that the three nations will meet in Washington D.C. and hope to resume joint negotiations with the isolated Stalinist North as soon as possible.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi made a similar statement Monday when she addressed lawmakers. Ms. Kawaguchi says that North Korea's nuclear capability remains an important diplomatic issue for Japan. She adds that Japan maintains close ties with the United States and South Korea and hopes these ties will help the negotiations.

The United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia and China held the first talks with North Korea in Beijing in August, but those ended without resolution. Ever since, Washington and its four allies have been trying to convince Pyongyang to agree to another round of talks.

The nuclear crisis erupted in October of 2002, when American officials said North Korea admitted it had a nuclear weapons program underway, in violation of international accords.

North Korea recently offered to freeze its nuclear programs if the United States lifts sanctions and provides energy aid. But the Bush administration says the North must first dismantle its nuclear programs.

North Korea issued a call Tuesday for Korean reunification. In a commentary on the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang says Koreans from the North, South and those living in other nations should struggle against the United States, which it accuses of interfering with the reunification process.

North and South Korea signed a joint declaration in June 2000, in which they pledged to work toward reunification. So far they have held humanitarian exchanges and have boosted economic ties and transportation links. But Seoul has rejected North Korea's calls for an anti-U.S. stance. Washington and Seoul are close allies, and the U.S. military stations 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea to protect it in case of a North Korean attack.

North and South Korea remain technically at war, since the Korean War ended in 1953 with no peace treaty.

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