Jeju, South Korea (AFP) Dec 13, 2005
A North Korean delegation arrived Tuesday for high-level talks with South Korea as Seoul said it would use the meeting to push Pyongyang to end the stalemate over its nuclear drive.
South Korea's chief envoy to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, Song Min-Soon, flew to the southern resort island of Jeju from a regional summit in Kuala Lumpur.
"The North Korean nuclear issue must be given high priority at inter-Korean ministerial talks," Song told journalists.
"We will deal with the issue at the talks as well, because progress at inter-Korean negotiations will lead to progress at the six-party talks."
South Korean officials say they will press the North to agree to an early resumption of the six-party talks involving China, the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.
North Korea said on Sunday that those talks would be suspended indefinitely because of US financial sanctions imposed on it.
Song sat next to a North Korean official at a dinner given by Prime Minister Lee Hae-Chan for the visiting delegation.
With relations between Washington and Pyongyang at a new low, the communist North on Tuesday made a fresh pledge to suspend the six-party talks until the United States lifts economic sanctions.
"Dialogue and sanctions cannot go together," the North's government newspaper, Minju Josun, said in a commentary.
"It is the DPRK's (North Korea's) stand that it will never discuss the nuclear issue with the US while being subject to its sanctions," it said.
The North Korea delegation to the inter-Korean ministerial meeting starting on Wednesday is led by Kwon Ho-Ung, a cabinet councillor.
"South and North Korea are like an inseparable living organism or a big family, although they were forcibly divided by foreign forces," Kwon said in his dinner speech.
South Korea's Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young said stability and peace on the Korean peninsula are key to the prosperity of both countries. Chung called for unlimited "inter-Korean economic cooperation on a reciprocal basis."
North Korea agreed in principle at the fourth round of six-party talks in Beijing in September to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits and security guarantees.
The latest session, however, ended in stalemate last month, with Pyongyang urging Washington to lift sanctions on its firms.
Tension rose further last week when US ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow called Pyongyang a "criminal regime" engaged in illegal activities including money laundering and counterfeiting.
North Korea angrily denounced Vershbow's remarks as a "declaration of war."
"What should not be overlooked is that those outcries are made at a time when the US administration has escalated its pressure upon (North Korea) by applying financial sanctions against it," Rodong Sinmun, the country's ruling party newspaper, said in a commentary Tuesday.
The United States should be held fully responsible for "all the consequences to be entailed by its reckless remarks seriously getting on the nerves," it said.
South Korean officials said the inter-Korean dialogue would also cover other thorny issues such as prisoners of war, military talks and the delayed opening of cross-border railways.
Economic exchanges have greatly increased following an inter-Korean summit in 2000.
North Korea, however, has balked at holding high-level military talks with South Korea on easing tension, after two rounds of general-level talks in June
South Korea says 546 prisoners of war captured by North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War and some 485 civilians, mostly fishermen abducted since the conflict, are still alive in the North.
North Korea has said only 21 South Korean prisoners of war and abducted civilians are still alive.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Iran At Nuclear Point Of No-Return By March Says Israel
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 13, 2005
Iran will have acquired all the necessary technological know-how to build a nuclear bomb by March, Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz said on Tuesday.
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