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Diplomatic Effort Under Way Ahead of North Korea Nuclear Talks - 2004-08-27

Diplomatic activity is increasing in Asian capitals, ahead of an anticipated fourth round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons development. This comes after North Korea again threatened not to attend the meetings.

South Korea's deputy foreign minister held discussions in Japan on Friday to plan strategy for the next round of six-nation talks at the end of September in Beijing. Lee Soo-hyuck met here with the head of the Foreign Ministry's Asia bureau, Mitoji Yabunaka. Both men have played key roles in the previous round of talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

A South Korean Embassy official in Tokyo says the two officials exchanged ideas on how to keep up the momentum. Earlier in the week, Mr. Lee met with his new Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, in Beijing.

The South Korean Embassy official also says Seoul, Tokyo and Washington might hold talks among themselves concerning North Korea at the beginning of September.

Meanwhile, South Korea's unification minister, Chung Dong-young, is expected to leave Monday for Washington to meet with top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

North Korea this week stated future six-way talks are pointless; again blaming what it says is a hostile United States attitude. Even if the talks are held as planned, many analysts doubt there will be a breakthrough.

Choong Nam Kim, who served as a political assistant to two South Korean presidents, is among them. Mr. Kim, a senior analyst at East West Center in the U.S. state of Hawaii, says the current government in Seoul is taking too optimistic a view of North Korea, concerning the issues of nuclear weapons development and reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

"I'm wondering [if], actually, North Korea is really aimed to reconcile, or reform, and open their society and work for the reunification. I don't believe so," said Mr. Kim. "I believe that North Korea's top aim is to protect their Socialist regime."

Also Friday, South Korea denied a Japanese newspaper report that it is seeking a summit with North Korea in the hopes of a breakthrough on the nuclear dispute.

Three rounds of multilateral talks have failed to resolve the issue. Both Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia have been taking part in those discussions. North Korea has resisted any attempt to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs, which are in violation of international accords. It is demanding massive aid and security guarantees as a precondition.