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US, South Korea Want North Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks

South Korea and the United States have reaffirmed a desire to bring North Korea back into negotiations over its nuclear ambitions. The communist state is saying such a meeting is impossible for now.

Wrapping up a three-nation trip to Asia, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and other top officials in Seoul on Tuesday.

The meetings came as North Korea said it would not return to multinational talks to discuss ending its nuclear weapons programs unless certain conditions were met.

Pyongyang says American-led naval exercises conducted in Japanese waters Monday and Tuesday are the "ultimate war action" targeted at North Korea. It said such activities make talks impossible.

However, a dispatch by the North's official news agency said Pyongyang would rejoin the talks on the condition Washington halt its hostile policies towards the North and offer it a ``reward'' for freezing its nuclear development.

Mr. Powell, speaking to reporters in Seoul, said it is in Pyongyang's interest to return to the talks.

"We don't intend to attack North Korea; we have no hostile intent. And in fact, it is this nuclear issue that is keeping the international community from assisting North Korea. So we would like to see the talks get underway again as quickly as possible."

South Korean officials have quoted Mr. Powell as saying he expects North Korea to reappear at the talks after next week's U.S. presidential election.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, appearing with Mr. Powell, says all parties in the six-way talks - both Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia - must show more flexibility on the issue.

Mr. Ban says it is important to hold a fourth round of talks as soon as possible. He called for "more creative and realistic proposals" to help bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

China, the host for the talks, said after Mr. Powell left that country that it, too, agrees on the importance of the six-party talks.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says China and the United States agree that multi-lateral talks are the best way to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Russia separately said Tuesday that it would push for a resumption of the talks.

While Pyongyang continues to develop nuclear weapons, hunger remains a major problem among North Korean citizens. However, the World Food Program says it now has a "full food basket" for North Korea through March of next year.

The WFP's executive director, James Morris, also told reporters in Tokyo Tuesday that the half million metric tons of food it had collected, to feed nearly 6.5 million North Korean women and children, was not being diverted or resold by the government.

"We are absolutely certain that our food, provided by 18 donor countries, is not resold in any markets in North Korea," he said.

North Korea has depended on foreign aid for nearly a decade to feed its people. The United States, Japan and South Korea are among the largest food donors.