Sun, May 15, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Pyongyang says it will talk to Seoul about nuke crisis


North and South Korean officials will hold talks starting Monday to discuss the normalization of ties and Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament, South Korean officials said yesterday.

North Korea asked the South for the meeting yesterday, according to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The talks were proposed in a telephone message to South Korea's Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, "prompted by the desire to put the inter-Korean relations on a normal track," KCNA reported.

The meeting comes amid international efforts to bring the North back to the negotiating table aimed at halting its nuclear weapons ambitions.

"First, there will be discussions on measures to normalize relations between the South and the North," Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo told reporters. "We will also convey our position on the North Korean nuclear issue."

South Korean officials will deliver growing international concerns about the nuclear standoff and "urge the North to respond to calls for early resumption of six-nation talks," Rhee said. Other topics at the two-day talks would include Seoul's fertilizer aid to Pyongyang and arranging meetings of separated families of the two Koreas.

Rhee will lead the South Korean delegation to the talks on Monday and Tuesday in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, site of a joint economic zone run by both Koreas.

Dialogue between the two sides was suspended last July after mass defections to South Korea from the North that Pyongyang labeled kidnappings.

The communist state declared Feb. 10 that it had nuclear weapons.

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