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South Korea Calls on NK to Come Out for Nuke Talks


South Korea Calls on NK to Come Out for Nuke Talks

PYONGYANG - South Korean officials called on Pyongyang Thursday to participate in a second round of six-party nuclear talks in good faith, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

In a keynote speech at economic talks being held here, South Korean officials warned that inter-Korean economic cooperation projects would stall unless the North Korean nuclear row is resolved promptly through dialogue.

North Korean delegates avoided the nuclear issue and instead called on the South to push ahead with ongoing inter-Korean projects based on the principle of "inter-Korean collaboration."

North Korea has often called for strengthening inter-Korean 'collaboration' to counter "foreign forces," an allusion to the United States, over the nuclear row.

Seoul views Pyongyang's calls as an effort to drive a wedge into the Seoul-Washington alliance.

Prospects for a second six-nation meeting improved last week after North Korea agreed in principle to attend. After the first meeting ended without clear results in August, North Korea had showed little interest in further talks.

The North shifted its stance after U.S. President George W. Bush expressed a willingness to provide a multilateral security guarantee to the communist country if it agreed to scrap its nuclear arms program.

The first six-party meeting in Beijing involved the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan.

The nuclear crisis flared in October last year when the United States accused the communist country of reneging on a 1994 agreement by running a secret nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, in the keynote speech session at the economic talks, the North complained of a lack of progress in inter-Korean economic projects, such as the reconnection of cross-border railways and roads.

In previous talks in August, the two sides agreed to reconnect the severed railways and roads across the heavily fortified border by the year's end.

The deadlines for inter-Korean projects have been missed due to political tensions and other problems.

The relinking of the railways and roads, severed just before the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, is one of the most prominent symbols of reconciliation set in motion by the landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000.

The four-day talks were called to review the progress of major economic projects between the two sides.

South Korea proposed that both sides open an office in the North's border city of Gaeseong to expand inter-Korean direct trade and exchange bilateral economic study tours to oversee ongoing inter-Korean economic cooperation.

The volume of direct inter-Korean trade accounts for less than 10 percent of annual cross-border shipments, which stood at $642 million in 2002 and $341 million in the first seven months of this year.

Seoul officials also proposed that the two sides make joint efforts to prevent illegal fishing by third countries in the Yellow Sea, an area where the navies of the two Koreas clashed in June last year, leaving five South Korean sailors dead and injuring 19 others.

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