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Roh, Putin Again Call on N. Korea to Curb Nuclear Weapons Drive  - 2004-09-21

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his South Korean counterpart President Roh Moo Hyun have reiterated calls for curbing North Korea's nuclear weapons drive and continuing the six-nation talks aimed at defusing the Korean nuclear crisis.

President Putin and South Korean President Roh emerged from several hours of talks at the Kremlin agreeing that North Korea must abandon its nuclear ambitions for the sake of peace and stability in Asia.

But the two leaders offered little detail on how they plan to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table alongside the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea.

North Korea's elusive President Kim Jong-Il has long resisted relinquishing his nation's nuclear program, despite international pledges of security guarantees and economic aid. Three earlier rounds of multi-party talks failed to yield a breakthrough. But officials in Russia and South Korea remain hopeful that President Putin's personal relationship with the North Korean leader can somehow help gain some ground on the issue.

On the subject of trade, President Putin had only words of praise. In remarks broadcast on Russian television, Mr. Putin said that economic relations between Moscow and Seoul are developing "very actively," and that this strengthened partnership could facilitate peace and stability across the Asian continent.

President Putin noted that trade between Russia and South Korea has grown by more than 50 percent in the first half of this year, a development he characterized as "excellent."

But both Putin and Roh agree that further economic growth and cooperation hinges upon resolving the North Korean nuclear stand-off.

Joint work towards that end will continue during further talks between Russian and South Korean negotiators on Wednesday. Tuesday, the two sides signed a joint agreement to cooperate in space programs, with the goal to send the first South Korean into space by 2007. Russia and South Korea are also working toward greater cooperation in the energy sector.