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Key Senator Says US Should Talk Directly With North Korea

As the Bush administration seeks a united stance with other world leaders to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff with North Korea over its missile tests, one influential U.S. lawmaker says the United States should consider direct talks with the North Koreans.

Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

But Lugar has also long advocated direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and in an interview with VOA, he says his position has not changed following North Korea's missile tests this week:

"I have said we ought to have at some point intensive diplomacy, perhaps within the context of the six-power talks, as a part of that process, but nevertheless direct talks with the North Koreans because we really need to know their agenda, what is going to be required to bring some closure to the situation of potential nuclear weapons, both weapons that might be fired at other countries, including ourselves, or materials that could be exported to terrorists or to others who would pay North Korea money for this," he said.

The top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, also expressed his support for direct talks between the United States and North Korea earlier this week.

In an interview with CBS television, Biden said he is more concerned about Pyongyang's taking provocative actions that could escalate tensions in the region, than about its ability to strike the United States with a missile. "I do think thay are so irrational in term of miss miscalculating the rest of the world that they may try to play a game of brinksmanship conventionally on the continent, or their actions be so provocative that they cause the South or Japan to move toward their own movement toward nuclear capability," he said.

North Korea has long sought direct talks with the United States, but Washington maintains it will only meet with Pyongyang in the context of the six-party framework.

The six-nation talks, which include China, South Korea, Japan, Russia as well as the United States and North Korea have been stalled since November.

North Korea has boycotted the talks over U.S. financial sanctions imposed on the country because of its alleged counterfeiting of U.S. currency and other illegal activity.