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US, South Korean Leaders Agree to Press for Action on N. Korea

U.S. President George Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun have agreed to accelerate efforts to end the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

President Roh Moo-hyun spoke to President Bush Friday, and said later that Mr. Bush agreed to push ahead with organizing a fresh round of disarmament talks with North Korea.

South Korea issued a statement saying the two leaders would work to hold six-way talks as soon as possible.

So far, the talks have failed to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang. The two Koreas plus the United States, Japan, Russia and China have met three times since last year.

North Korea has refused to attend a fourth round and efforts to move forward had been delayed by the recent U.S. presidential election.

Political analysts in South Korea say they now expect President Bush to increase the pressure on North Korea to re-enter negotiations and end its nuclear program.

"Even though Bush will try to solve the nuclear problems within the framework of six-party talks he will not wait long," said Kim Tae-woo, a security expert at the South Korean Institute for Defense Analysis.

Mr. Kim says Washington may strengthen efforts to block North Korean ships suspected of carrying illegal drugs, weapons components and nuclear technology.

Japan also is ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobukata Machimura has indicated Tokyo may consider imposing economic sanctions on North Korea unless the situation improves.

Mr. Machimura was in Seoul Saturday to meet with President Roh. The foreign minister reiterated calls for a swift resumption of multilateral talks.

North Korea insists it will not return to six-party talks until Washington drops demands that Pyongyang first abandon its nuclear programs before it can receive significant aid and other benefits.