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US Rebuffs North Korean Offer for Military Talks


North Korea says it wants to hold military talks with the United States, but Washington says any direct talks would only come after an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. Joseph Popiolkowski has more from Hong Kong.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday that Pyongyang wants military talks with the United States to discuss peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

But, Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to six-nation talks on North Korea, says Washington wants to see an end to Pyongyang's nuclear programs first.

Hill arrived in Japan Friday for consultations before the six-party talks resume in Beijing on Wednesday.

Kim Tae-woo, the senior nuclear weapons researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, says there is still too much friction between the two sides for military talks.

"I don't think the conditions are mature for the two nations to have military talks," said Kim.

He says North Korea's move is part of its peace offensive, in which it is maneuvering to deal directly with the United States and exclude the other nations in the talks - South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia.

He worries North Korea could use its call for military talks as an excuse for not ending its nuclear ambitions.

"I'm paying attention to their real intentions," he said. "If North Korea has not decided to completely denuclearize then this peace offensive can be dangerous to South Korea."

The United States fought alongside South Korea in the three-year Korean War. An armistice in 1953 ended hostilities but North and South Korea remain technically at war. The North Koreans say the presence of U.S. troops in the South threatens them.

North Korea's overture to the U.S. was made in the run-up to the arrival in Pyongyang Saturday of a United Nations nuclear inspection team. The team is to monitor the promised shutdown of North Korea's main nuclear facility.

The impoverished North Korea agreed at six-party talks in February to shut down its nuclear facilities in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.