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SKorea hails Russia's role on NKorea

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Sept 9, 2007
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun praised Russia on Sunday for helping advance the six-way talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

"The process of six-sided talks is going well. This is also thanks to your role and the role of the Russian government," Roh said at talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of an Asia Pacific summit in Sydney.

Russia is a member of the negotiation group formed in 2003 that also includes China, Japan, the two Koreas and the United States.

The six parties reached a February disarmament deal under which the North -- which tested an atomic weapon for the first time last year -- promised to declare and dismantle its nuclear programmes in return for aid and diplomatic concessions.

Putin responded that "together we have achieved significant progress toward removing the world community's concerns about this programme while taking into account the interests of your northern neighbour."

Moscow, Beijing and Washington will send experts to North Korea next week, at the invitation of the North, to study how to disable the communist state's nuclear facilities.

Russia also facilitated the transfer of North Korean funds from a bank in Macau back to Pyongyang after they had been released from frozen accounts -- a dispute that had stalled progress in the multilateral talks for months.

Putin and Roh also noted growing economic ties between Russia and South Korea, which have brought bilateral trade turnover to 10 billion dollars, up from less than three billion dollars in 2000.

related report
US team due in Seoul ahead of North Korea trip
Seoul (AFP) Sept 9 - A US team of experts will arrive in Seoul Monday for talks ahead of a visit to North Korea to discuss disabling the communist state's nuclear facilities, officials said Sunday.

The group led by Sung Kim, a US State Department official in charge of Korean affairs, will hold talks with Seoul's deputy nuclear negotiator before travelling Tuesday to the North, the foreign ministry said.

Top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said Friday that experts from China, Russia and the United States would visit the communist state to study how its nuclear facilities could be disabled.

Hill described the trip as "an ambitious phase" in the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The experts will report back to the six-party talks -- which group the United States, China, the two Koreas, Russia and Japan -- expected to resume this month.

The talks produced a landmark agreement on February 13 when North Korea agreed to the full declaration and disabling of all its nuclear programmes in return for aid, security and diplomatic benefits.

North Korea has already shut down its main operating nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in return for 50,000 tons of fuel oil.

It will receive another 950,000 tons of fuel oil, or equivalent economic aid, and progress in normalisation talks with the United States and Japan if it goes ahead with fulfilling its commitments to nuclear disarmament.

North Korea is believed to have a few nuclear bombs and enough fission material to make several more. It conducted its first nuclear bomb test in October last year.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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Signs of NKorea nuclear progress but weapons elusive
Seoul (AFP) Sept 4, 2007
North Korea's agreement to disable its nuclear facilities by the end of the year is a hopeful sign but the communist state is a long way away from giving up its actual atomic weapons, analysts said Tuesday.

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