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S. Korea, US seek consensus ahead of nuke talks

S. Korea, US seek consensus ahead of nuke talks

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in Washington on Saturday for consultations on how to resolve the nuclear standoff, said Pyongyang's demand to operate nuclear power plants has “pushed aside” the central denuclearization issue.

“The scope of nuclear dismantlement is the most fundamental, most important issue of the six-party talks,” he said. “After we determine exactly what North Korea will give up, then we can talk about peaceful nuclear energy as a corresponding measure.”

Ban, who will begin meetings with top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Monday, confirmed that he does “need to talk” with them about North Korea's right to a peaceful nuclear program.

“We can certainly coordinate the positions (between South Korea and the United States),” he said.

Speaking with reporters after arriving in Washington, Ban also said South Korea and the U.S. are prepared to accommodate North Korea's request for discussions on a peace treaty to replace the Korean War armistice, but only once the nuclear dispute reaches the “stage of resolution.”

The foreign affairs chief indicated a forum separate from the six-party talks would be established to work out the peace treaty, which Pyongyang has long sought as a way to secure its sovereignty.

Accompanying him, Song Min-soon, deputy foreign minister and Seoul's chief delegate to the nuclear talks, will also hold consultations with U.S. counterpart Christopher Hill to discuss details of a possible six-party statement.

Meanwhile, Lee Jong-seok, deputy director of the National Security Council, headed to Moscow yesterday to discuss the issue with top Russian officials. He will meet with Alexander Alexeyev, Russia's chief envoy to the six-party talks, and Nikolay Spassky, deputy secretary of its Security Council.

Lee will then fly to Japan Wednesday for similar consultations with Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda.

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