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S. Korean FM: US, South Korea Maintain Closely Aligned Policies - 2004-03-06


South Korea's foreign minister says his country and the United States remain closely aligned on policies regarding North Korea's nuclear program. In a wide-ranging speech in Washington Friday, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon also said he hopes revelations about a Pakistani scientist's role in selling nuclear secrets may convince North Korea to reveal details about its nuclear program.

Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said the recent six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program were a successful collaboration between the United States and South Korea.

"The positive efforts by Korea and the United States have helped North Korea soften it's stance on having bilateral meetings with the United States, and come up with its own suggestions at the six-party talks," he said.

During those talks in Beijing, North Korea refused to acknowledge it has a uranium enrichment program. But the participating countries did agree to hold informal discussions before the next round of talks by the end of June and all parties agreed that a nuclear-free Korean peninsula is the ultimate goal.

U.S. officials have said North Korea's refusal to admit having a uranium enrichment program has been the main stumbling block in the negotiations.

Pakistan revealed last month that its top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan secretly sold nuclear technology to North Korea and two other countries. The foreign minister says he hopes Mr. Khan's admission and information from ongoing investigations into the illicit nuclear trade will convince North Korea to reveal details about its highly enriched uranium (HEU) program. "During the process of six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea again denied the existence of these HEU programs, with the admission of Dr. Khan and with the further revelation of this information, I hope the North Koreans will have to make their position clear and make a complete and verifiable dismantlement of their programs, including plutonium programs," he said.

Mr. Ban also spoke about the increasing cooperation between his country and the United States on security. The South Korean parliament recently decided to send 3,000 troops to Iraq. With the deployment, South Korea will have the third largest number of troops in the country, behind the United States and Britain.

The minister says his country and the United States are also nearing a final agreement on a major realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea. Mr. Ban did not reveal when the agreement will be announced, but said all major details of the transition have been worked out.