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US Shrugs Off North Korea's Move To Delay Return To Nuclear Talks

Asked how he read the North Korean decision to delay the resumption of talks, McCormack said: "We can only take their statements at face value. The decision-making process in North Korea is one in which we don't necessarily have the greatest degree of clarity on."

Washington (AFP) Aug 29, 2005
The United States played down North Korea's move Monday to seek a two-week delay in resumption of talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons drive, saying it saw no signs Pyongyang was retreating from its commitment to the negotiations.

The fourth round of the six-party talks among the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China was scheduled to resume this week following a recess on August 7 after two weeks of unsuccessful negotiations.

But North Korea said Monday it would not return to the talks in Beijing until the week of September 12, blaming the delay on military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

"We've seen some statements from the North Koreans saying that they would be prepared to come back the week of September 12th. All the parties, at the end of the last session of talks, made a commitment to return," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

He noted that originally, that commitment to return to the talks was the week of August 29.

For its part, he said the United States was prepared to come back to the negotiating table on the week of September 12.

McCormack said that the Chinese government was working bilaterally with the North Koreans, as well as other states, to set a convenient date for the resumption of the talks.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by the official KCNA news agency as saying Monday that it wanted a delay in the talks due to the war games.

"It is unimaginable for (North Korea) to sit at the negotiating table with the United States at a time when the powder-reeking war exercises targeted against it are under way," the spokesman said.

He said Pyongyang wanted to resume the talks when the dust had settled from the annual war games, which began on August 22 and which North Korea has said could be a trial run for an invasion.

North Korea also has blasted US President George W. Bush's appointment of an envoy for human rights in the reclusive state, which claims it has nuclear weapons and must build more to stop US aggression.

McCormack said the war games and the appointment of the human rights commissioner were not linked to the six-party talks, whose objective was to achieve a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Bush's appointment on August 19 of his ex-senior aide, Jay Lefkowitz, as special envoy in charge of promoting human rights in North Korea was "something that was mandated by US law," McCormack said.

"We have spoken out very clearly on the issue of human rights around the world," he said.

As for the military exercise, he said, it was an annual exercise that "poses no threat to the north."

Asked how he read the North Korean decision to delay the resumption of talks, McCormack said: "We can only take their statements at face value. The decision-making process in North Korea is one in which we don't necessarily have the greatest degree of clarity on."

The talks aim to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits and security guarantees.

One sticking point is whether North Korea should be allowed to run nuclear programs for peaceful use.

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Unsecured 'Dirty Bomb' Material Found In Asia: Report
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Australian nuclear experts working to prevent a "dirty bomb" attack by terrorists have found large unsecured sources of dangerous radioactive material in southeast Asia, a report said Monday.







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