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North Korea Talks to Resume Later This Month


Talks to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue are expected to resume later this month as the process of dismantling the country's nuclear facilities moves a step further. The United Nations nuclear watchdog has approved sending experts to North Korea to monitor the shutdown. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Negotiators from North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia are expected to gather in Beijing to discuss progress on ending North Korea's nuclear programs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang says China is in close coordination with the other five parties and hopes the meeting can be held in the middle of the month. But he said no date has been set yet.

News media in South Korea reported Tuesday that China recommended starting the talks around July 18.

China has been host for the talks since 2003. In the last round of negotiations in February, Pyongyang agreed to take steps to shut down its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for energy and diplomatic benefits.

But the process was held up by a financial dispute between Pyongyang and Washington. That dispute was settled in June when $25 million in frozen North Korean funds in Macau, suspected of being from illegal activities, were transferred to North Korea. Once that was resolved, Pyongyang allowed U.N. nuclear inspectors back to the country for the first time since they were expelled nearly five years ago.

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency approved sending experts to North Korea to monitor the shutdown of its Yongbyon reactor.

IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei says the mission could start within two weeks once Pyongyang receives a promised fuel shipment from South Korea. Seoul says the oil, part of the incentives offered to Pyongyang in February, will be delivered Thursday.

ElBaradei arrives in Seoul Wednesday to attend activities marking 50 years of South Korean cooperation with the nuclear watchdog.

Also on Tuesday, the two Koreas resumed military talks to resolve another dispute - their maritime border. The sea border has been a source of conflict between the two countries, still technically at war. North Korea does not recognize the current border and has long claimed that it should be moved further south.

In May, North and South Korea agreed to set up a joint fishing area around the border.

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