Seoul positive on N. Korea talks
Bolton says the U.S. wants a complete end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
North Korea is offering a deal that could halt its nuclear program in return for concessions from Washington. CNN's David Ensor explains. (January 6)
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SEOUL, South Korea -- Next week's six-party talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear weapons program are likely to have a "positive outcome", according to South Korea's foreign minister Ban Ki-moon.
But the United States has warned there is a risk the talks will collapse without concessions from North Korea.
The talks, which open on February 25, will bring together the two Koreas, along with Japan, Russia, the United States and host China to discuss a nuclear crisis that has been simmering since late 2002.
The first round of six-party talks held in Beijing last August ended with little progress.
The United States is pushing for the complete dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, not just a freeze.
U.S. arms control envoy John Bolton said in Beijing Tuesday, the central issue was "whether North Korea is prepared to make the commitment for the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of its program."
Bolton, an undersecretary of state, said while a freeze is desirable, the United States wants an end to the program.
South Korea's Ban, meeting reporters before departing on a trip to the Middle East, expressed optimism about next week's meeting.
He said Wednesday he anticipated a "visible and positive outcome" from the talks, Yonhap news agency reported.
"For this goal, many-sided efforts have been made (by participating countries) ... and I think there has been considerable progress," Yonhap quoted Ban as saying.
He said South Korea believed it would be good to issue a joint press statement after the talks.
Pyongyang has said it will freeze its nuclear programs as a first step in resolving the dispute, but only if the United States lifts sanctions, resumes oil shipments and removes North Korea from its list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
"There is no reason for the U.S. to refuse to accept the DPRK-proposed measures, the starting point and the core issue in continuing the six-way talks, if it is truly concerned for solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," KCNA reported in January.
In the months since the initial talks, North Korea has indicated it could consider U.S. President George W. Bush's offer of written security guarantees to end tensions over its nuclear weapons development.
The comments by Bolton and Ban come as Japanese defense officials said Wednesday the country would start testing a land-based defense radar system from April.
Japan is worried about North Korea's development of ballistic missiles, fearing they could be used against it if the situation on the Korean peninsula deteriorated.
In August 1998, North Korea launched a Taepodong ballistic missile that passed over Japan.
Pyongyang is believed to have up to 100 Rodong-II missiles capable of reaching Japan.
The new defense radar system will be able to detect ballistic missiles as well as aircraft, an official at the Self Defense Agency said, Reuters reported.
Four Japanese destroyers are equipped with high-tech Aegis missile-detection systems, but Japan's land-based radar has previously focused on aircraft.
Tests on the new system, developed since 1999 after the Taepodong launch, will start in April and last for around two years, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said.