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Saturday, July 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | N Korea to rejoin nuclear talks

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | N Korea to rejoin nuclear talks N Korea to rejoin nuclear talks
North Korea says it has agreed to return to talks about its nuclear weapons programme later this month.

The secretive communist state's announcement came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the Chinese capital, Beijing, for talks.

She has been looking to revive the six-nation talks - involving the US, the two Koreas, Russia, China and Japan - which broke down last year.

China is one of North Korea's few allies in the region.

The BBC's Brenda Marshall says North Korea's decision is not entirely unexpected.

It has consistently blamed what it calls the US hostile attitude towards it for the talks impasse but what seems to have happened now is that North Korea's sensitivities have been mollified, our correspondent says.

In the view of Pyongyang, Washington has clarified that it recognises the North as a sovereign state, will not invade it and will hold bilateral talks within the framework of the six-party talks.

Joint decision

North Korean state news agency KCNA said Pyongyang had decided to reopen the talks after its Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, had talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill in Beijing on Saturday.

"Both sides agreed to open the fourth round of the six-party talks in the week which begins on 25 July 2005," KCNA reported.

A US official accompanying Ms Rice confirmed for reporters that the talks would resume in "the week of 25 July".

North Korea pulled out of the talks 13 months ago, and has said it is stockpiling atomic weapons to defend itself from the US.

Ms Rice is due to visit Thailand, Japan and South Korea after leaving China.

Her trip comes just three months after a similar mission to the region.

Sanctions threat

The six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear capability were held in 2003 and 2004, but were broken off amid North Korean complaints about "aggressive" US policy.

The US wants North Korea to dismantle nuclear reactors and stop producing atomic weapons - as well as providing verifiable proof of doing so.

South Korea, which has a continuing dialogue with Pyongyang, had also been seeking to coax its neighbour back to the negotiating table.

On her previous visit to the region, in March, Ms Rice hinted that North Korea could face sanctions if it failed to compromise on the nuclear issue.

But that threat has not been repeated, and the US has moderated its tone towards the communist state, stressing it does not intend to attack.

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