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N. Korea Indicates Willingness to Join New Round of Nuclear Talks - 2003-12-28

North Korea says it is willing to attend a second round of multi-lateral talks early next year about its nuclear weapons programs. No date, however, has been announced for the talks.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reports that China and North Korea last week agreed to work toward holding talks early next year.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday said precise dates still need to be discussed among the six countries participating in the talks.

Talks with North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States in August ended inconclusively.

Pyongyang described that meeting as "useless" and said it would not return for another round, unless the United States made concessions.

Late Saturday, the North Korean news agency again demanded "simultaneous" actions from the United States in return for Pyongyang freezing its nuclear program.

Pyongyang wants Washington and its allies to give it oil, and it wants to be dropped from a U.S. list of states that support terrorism. It also demands economic aid and a security guarantee from the United States.

Washington says North Korea must first verifiably scrap its nuclear weapons program.

China has led diplomatic efforts in recent months to get the North Koreans back to the table. There had been hopes for negotiations to resume this month.

News media in Japan and South Korea say Chinese, Japanese and South Korean senior officials were meeting Sunday in Seoul to formulate strategy for a new round of talks.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang escalated 14 months ago, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a covert nuclear weapons program in violation of several international accords.

Pyongyang then kicked out United Nations nuclear monitors, quit the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and declared it was restarting nuclear facilities that can produce nuclear weapons-grade material.