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Inter-Korean Talks End Without Nuclear Agreement - 2003-10-17

South Korea has ended four days of talks in Pyongyang without getting North Korea to agree to hold more multiparty talks on its nuclear weapons program. South Korean officials also dismiss new North Korean threats to publicly show its nuclear deterrent.

Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea ended Friday without progress on the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development.

The joint statement in Pyongyang only said both sides had agreed to hold another round of ministerial-level talks in early February and lower-level economic talks in November. The statement did not even mention North Korea's nuclear activities.

South Korean media report Seoul's delegation pushed to get North Korea to commit to a second round of six-nation talks and the North refused.

The South also reportedly warned Pyongyang that its continued nuclear threats could seriously harm inter-Korean ties.

Those threats continued Thursday when North Korea said it will publicly display what it calls its nuclear deterrent. South Korean officials shrugged off the statement, with presidential national security adviser, Ra Jong-il, calling it a "negotiating ploy."

Lee Chung-min, a politics professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, agrees. He notes that North Korea made its latest boast at the start of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok.

"They have said many other things that are very, very vitriolic," he said. "They are posturing and huffing and puffing before APEC and whether the APEC leaders will issue a joint statement or not [about North Korea] we do not know at this particular time. But I would not be surprised if there was a general statement asking North Korea to come back to the NPT.

Mr. Lee is referring to North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty last January, three months after U.S. officials first revealed that North Korea admitted it was running a secret nuclear program in violation of international accords.

North Korea now claims it has reprocessed 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, an important step toward producing atomic weapons. U.S. intelligence experts say this could yield sufficient plutonium for up to five nuclear bombs within months. They have long suspected that North Korea already possesses one or two atomic weapons.

North Korea repeatedly insists that the only way it will give up its nuclear program is if Washington signs a non-aggression pact and gives it economic aid, but the Bush administration says Pyongyang must first give up its nuclear weapons.