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Negotiators Show Flexibility for North Korean Nuclear Talks - 2004-06-22


Delegates from six nations have wrapped up working-level talks in preparation for a third round of formal negotiations Wednesday on North Korea's nuclear-weapons programs. Washington's allies are now indicating they might meet some of Pyongyang's conditions.

Preliminary discussions ended with a South Korean official saying negotiators plan to discuss a possible "freeze" of North Korea's nuclear programs.

Another official, South Korean delegation chief Lee Soo-hyuck, said his government would seek flexibility from other participants in order to move the negotiations along.

"We are here for the third round of talks and we will try to give further and more practical offers," he said.

The South Koreans say there was a consensus at the preliminary talks that a freeze should be considered. U.S. officials, who have been calling for complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear programs, did not confirm whether such a consensus had been reached.

Monday, North Korea said it would consider drawing up a plan to freeze or dismantle its nuclear weapons project if the United States and others presented a proposal of what they would offer in return.

U.S. officials have rejected Pyongyang's previous offers to freeze its programs, and have said Washington's conditions must be met before it would consider North Korea's demands for economic aid and security guarantees.

South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, the other four participants in the negotiations, have offered various types of aid to North Korea if it agrees to dismantle its programs.

Speaking on his arrival in Beijing, chief U.S. negotiator Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said he has no particular reason to be optimistic about the talks, but he said the United States is prepared for serious discussions.

Analysts do not expect much progress in this round of talks, noting that the United States and North Korea remain far apart on key issues. Two earlier rounds of high-level talks in August and February ended inconclusively.

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