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Seoul to push North Korea on nukes

The border of North and South Korea is the world's most heavily armed
The border of North and South Korea is the world's most heavily armed

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CNN's Jaime FlorCruz reports on the U.S.-North Korean talks in Beijing, China.
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Optimism wanes among some South Koreans. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports.
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- A high-level delegation from Seoul is in Pyongyang for three days of inter-Korean Cabinet talks.

Before arriving in the North, South Korean officials acknowledged the meetings come at a difficult time -- because of the row over Pyongyang's alleged nuclear weapons program.

The two Koreas are still technically at war, since they never signed a peace agreement ending the 1950-53 Korean war.

Instead an armistice was signed, creating an uneasy truce that divided a peninsula, and countless Korean families, into a communist North and an American-backed South.

In recent years South Korea has been pushing to engage the North, and both nations have embarked on joint ventures, including family reunions and economic cooperation.

But the nuclear issue is expected to loom large despite the fact it was not originally on the agenda after North Korean officials admitted they had a nuclear weapon to American counterparts at talks hosted by Beijing last week.

South Korea is alarmed at this admission, saying it is a "grave threat" to peace on the Korean peninsula and east Asia, and will push for North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

A nuclear North Korea would also violate treaties between the two countries that call for a nuclear-free peninsula.

North Korea does not consider the nuclear issue to be pertinent to inter-Korean talks, but says the dispute is between itself and the United States.

South Korea's chief delegate says the standoff will take "a considerable amount of time to resolve."

South Korea's stock market tumbled Friday, apparently over concern about the nuclear threat.

Sunday is the first of three days of scheduled talks, and it is the first time the Koreas have had meetings since South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took office in Seoul in February.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula after Washington last year accused Pyongyang of having a secretive nuclear weapons programs -- allegations that North Korea officially denied.

Since then the communist state has kicked out inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and has reactivated some nuclear facilities frozen under a 1994 pact with Washington.

Pyongyang says these are self-defense measures forced on it by the "hostile" policy of the United States that branded the North part of an "axis of evil."

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