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Pyongyang Offers Talks on Uranium Enrichment Program

Unused nuclear fuel rods are piled on the shelves of a warehouse at North Korea's main nuclear plant in Yongbyon, North Korea (file photo)

North Korea says it is willing to discuss its uranium enrichment program "without preconditions" if six-nation talks on its nuclear programs are resumed.

The official KCNA news agency announced the offer Tuesday in a report on a visit to Pyongyang by Russia's top official for the six-party talks, Alexei Borodavkin. It was the latest in a series of concessions by North Korea that began during a visit by former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson in December.

North Korean officials told Richardson they were prepared to allow international inspectors to return to their Yongbyon nuclear complex, where two U.S. experts were shown a sophisticated uranium processing facility last year. The officials also offered to ship plutonium fuel rods out of the country for processing and set up a joint military commission with South Korea.

The United States and South Korea rejected the offer, saying six-party talks cannot resume until Pyongyang shows its sincerity by honoring past promises to dismantle its nuclear programs. South Korea is also insisting that the North confess to the sinking of a South Korean warship in March last year, and apologize for a November artillery attack on a South Korean island.

The North originally broke off the six-party talks, which have been on hold for more than two years. But it has been asking for them to be resumed since last year.

The talks are aimed at having North Korea dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for international financial aid. The country's economic needs are believed to have deepened following a harsh winter and severe flooding last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.