South Korea is continuing its diplomatic push to defuse the North Korean nuclear crisis. As high-level envoys from Seoul headed to Washington Sunday, other South Korean officials were in Moscow for meetings with Russian counterparts.
Seoul is searching for a peaceful way to end North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-Shik and other officials left Sunday for talks with the United States and Japan on the North Korean nuclear issue. A three-point proposal from Seoul is expected to dominate the talks, which begin Monday.
South Korea's proposed plan reportedly would guarantee North Korea security and fuel, in return for giving up its nuclear programs. A vice foreign minister from Seoul has been in Moscow since Saturday, hoping to get Russian support. Russia and China have promised to cooperate with all parties to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. The assistance of Moscow and Beijing, Pyongyang's closest allies, is viewed as crucial for resolving the issue.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated after the United States and its allies suspended fuel oil supplies to North Korea. That decision followed Washington's announcement in October that Pyongyang had admitted having an illegal nuclear weapons program.
A few weeks ago, North Korea moved to re-start a plutonium reactor at a nuclear complex that had been put out of commission under a 1994 deal, in which the United States agreed to send fuel oil to North Korea. The communist state also expelled U-N inspectors, who had been monitoring the nuclear facility, which is capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.
Pyongyang says it has the right to have nuclear weapons for self-defense because Washington will not sign a non-aggression pact. The United States has said it has no plans to attack North Korea, but White House officials say they will not negotiate with Pyongyang under what they term "nuclear blackmail."