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Seoul Urges Negotiation Over North Korea's Nuclear Program


South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun says a peaceful approach to solving North Korea's nuclear threat is preferred over the more forceful action advocated by some hard-liners in the United States. Mr. Roh commented on the issue at the end of a state visit to Britain.

In an interview before departing London, Mr. Roh told British radio the Bush administration has been under pressure to give up on six-nation negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program and adopt a tougher line. Mr. Roh spoke through an interpreter.

"The United States government has persistently made the case for a peaceful resolution to this issue through dialogue," he said. "And it has continued to take part in the six-party talks. However, there are people in the United States who exercise considerable influence, in particular intellectuals in the United States, who are calling for regime change in North Korea, and who are calling on the United States to adopt a more hard-line policy against North Korea."

Critics of the six-party talks say there has been little progress in the three rounds held since last year between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. North Korea refused to attend a fourth round of talks last September.

In his interview, Mr. Roh played down the prospect of a military confrontation with the North, saying the nuclear standoff has been managed well so far, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

During his two-day state visit, Mr. Roh met Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss North Korea, Iraq and international trade issues.

South Korea has 3600 troops in Iraq and Mr. Roh says he expects the national assembly to approve a one-year extension of the deployment despite what he calls "considerable controversy" over the issue.

Mr. Roh left Britain for Poland Friday on the next leg of a three-nation European tour. He travels to France on Saturday.