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South Korea to Insist on Discussing North Korean Nuclear Program - 2002-12-15

Representatives of the two Koreas are scheduled to begin talks on Monday. The meeting was originally planned to discuss family reunions and cross-border travel, but South Korea says it will insist that North Korea's nuclear program also be on the agenda.

The head of South Korea's Red Cross delegation, Lee Byung-Woong says he will tell his northern counterparts that North Korea's nuclear program threatens peace on the Korean peninsula.

Three-days of talks between the Red Cross societies of the two Koreas begin Monday at a mountain resort in North Korea. The talks were arranged to discuss reuniting families divided by the border splitting the Korean peninsula, and other humanitarian matters.

Seoul is putting the nuclear issue on the agenda following Pyongyang's announcement Thursday that will reactivate its plutonium-based nuclear facilities. North Korea says it is forced to do so because an international consortium cut off fuel oil shipments to the country.

The oil shipments were ended after Washington revealed in October that North Korea had admitted having a program to develop nuclear weapons. The program violates international agreements, including a 1994 pact with the United States in which Pyongyang promised to freeze its old nuclear facilities, which could produce fuel for weapons, in return for oil and two safer nuclear reactors.

Mr. Lee, of South Korea's Red Cross delegation, says the nuclear moves by Pyongyang are a setback for resolving the humanitarian issues between the two neighbors.

Pyongyang says it will remove seals and surveillance cameras on its nuclear facilities if the U-N's International Atomic Energy Agency ignores North Korea's demands to remove the monitoring systems. The agency and U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan are urging Pyongyang not to take such steps. They also want North Korea to allow international inspectors to remain in the country.