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US, North Korea Make Third Contact To Break Nuclear Impasse

"I think at this point I'm just going to say that it was a diplomatic exchange," McCormack said of Monday's meeting.

Washington (AFP) Aug 23, 2005
The United States and North Korea held direct talks Monday for the third time in a week ahead of a resumption of multilateral negotiations aimed at ending the Stalinist state's nuclear weapons program.

"There has been, again, today one, through the New York channel, diplomatic contact," department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

He did not give details on what was discussed Monday with the North Korean officials based in Pyongyang's mission at the United Nations in New York. The two countries have no diplomatic relations.

Aside from the discussions Monday, there were two bilateral contacts made last week using "the New York channel" as part of heightened diplomatic activity to lay the groundwork for ending the nearly three-year nuclear impasse over the Korean peninsula, officials said.

"I think at this point I'm just going to say that it was a diplomatic exchange," McCormack said of Monday's meeting.

"Not going to get into the details of the diplomatic exchange, only to say that it is part of the diplomatic process in anticipation of the second part of this round of negotiations," he said.

The United States is also holding separate discussions with China, South Korea and Japan ahead of the resumption of the six-party talks in Beijing on an as yet unspecified day during the week of August 29.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan broke off on August 7 for three weeks without any sign of agreement on how to get the Stalinist state to abandon atomic weapons.

A key sticking point was North Korea's insistence on the right to retain a civilian nuclear program to produce energy, a demand rejected by the United States given Pyongyang's apparent failure to contain such a program to peaceful purposes in the past.

Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator to the six-party talks, had expressed hope that a so-called statement of principles between the parties could be wrapped up as early as September, allowing a crisis-ending deal to follow quickly.

Hill held talks here Monday with South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon ahead of Ban's meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

South Korea has offered to supply its northern neighbour with large supplies of electricity should it renounce nuclear weapons and of late has been pushing for Pyongyang's right to maintain a civilian nuclear program.

Ban is expected to seek US flexibility over North Korea's demand that it be allowed to maintain nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes.

Under a 1994 deal known as the Agreed Framework, which ended a previous weapons showdown, the United States agreed to provide fuel for North Korea until an international consortium built light-water nuclear reactors to generate power.

Washington contends the North reneged on that deal by mounting a secret program to enrich uranium, an allegation that triggered the current crisis.

The North has always denied a uranium-based program. But it raised the stakes in February by declaring that it has produced nuclear weapons and would manufacture more.

Hill also met Monday with senior Chinese foreign ministry official Cui Tiankai on the Korean nuclear crisis and planned to meet with his Japanese counterpart Kenichiro Sasae here on Thursday.

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Analysis: Koreas In Brisk Exchanges
Seoul (UPI) Aug 23, 2005
In inter-Korean contacts amid lingering nuclear tensions, a group of progressive lawmakers from South Korea embarked Tuesday upon a five-day visit to the communist North.

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