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Powell Meets with N. Korean Foreign Minister on Nuclear Crisis - 2004-07-02


Secretary of State Colin Powell and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun have met for the first time in two years to discuss the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The two diplomats met during an Asia-Pacific security forum in Indonesia.

A statement by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta called the talks "useful" and said there is an opportunity for concrete progress on the stalemate.

It said that Secretary of State Colin Powell and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun discussed proposals made at a meeting last week in Beijing.

At that meeting with North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, Washington offered to provide security guarantees if Pyongyang begins to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. The other negotiating partners offered aid to the impoverished North.

But Mr. Powell said Thursday the U.S. offer depended on real steps by Pyongyang.

"In the early phases of this plan that we put forward, as we follow the principle of word-for-word, deed-for-deed, we have to see deeds before we are prepared to put something on the table," he said.

Mr. Powell also underscored that the North Korean government should not conceal some of its nuclear programs. The United States says Pyongyang has admitted having a uranium-based weapons program, which North Korea denies.

A North Korean statement Friday said Mr. Paek told Secretary Powell that their countries need not be "permanent enemies." Mr. Paek earlier said the United States needed to establish more trust if the talks are to progress.

The United States fought alongside South Korea in the Korean War in the early 1950s, and maintains several large military bases in the South. Pyongyang maintains the South is a U.S. puppet and says it fears Washington plans to attack the North, which the United States denies.

An analyst with Jakarta's Center for Strategic and International Studies, Landry Subianto, says the latest proposals by both sides show a promising change from what he called earlier stubborn positions. But he warns against expecting too much from North Korea.

"It is really difficult to remove completely the nuclear program of North Korea because that is the only thing they have," he said.

Mr. Subianto says North Korea's softening position is due in part to a changing attitude by the Chinese government on the issue. He says Pyongyang also wants to improve ties with the governments of Asia.

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