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N. Korea mulls return to talks


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Efforts to get Kim back to the negotiating table have taken on a new sense of urgency.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il says he is ready to resume six-party talks on his country's nuclear weapons program if the United States shows sincerity and if certain conditions are met.

In the latest move in a series of heated accusations and rhetoric over the past two weeks, Pyongyang's state news agency quoted Kim as telling visiting Chinese diplomat Wang Jiarui that talks could resume if the United States "would show trustworthy sincerity and move (its stance)."

"We will go to the negotiating table anytime if there are mature conditions for the six-party talks thanks to the concerted efforts of the parties concerned in the future," KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying on Tuesday.

While Kim did not give further details about what these conditions were, in the past Pyongyang has insisted on one-to-one talks with the United States, but Washington says a multilateral diplomatic approach is required, a call echoed by South Korea.

Since 2003, the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have held three rounds of talks with North Korea aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards.

But no significant progress has been made in those talks, all hosted by China. A fourth round of talks in September did not take place when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a "hostile" U.S. policy.

The talks have taken on a greater sense of urgency after North Korea admitted publicly for the first time this month that it possessed nuclear weapons and it would not return to the talks.

Previously it had asserted its ability and right to produce nuclear weapons. In April 2003, U.S. officials said that North Koreans claimed in private meetings they had at least one nuclear bomb.

In what appears to be a conditional willingness to return to talks, Pyongyang said Tuesday its government "has never opposed the six-party talks but made every possible effort for their success."

Pyongyang "would as ever stand for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and its position to seek a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue remains unchanged."

Responding to the news, U.S. ambassador to Korea and the top U.S. nuclear negotiator, Christopher Hill, said on Tuesday in Seoul that America was very much committed to making the talks work, and was awaiting details of future talks.

North Korea's future depends on their presence at the talks "and beginning a long road, a difficult road for them but an essential road for them, to return to the international community," Hill added.

On Saturday, U.S. and Japanese officials issued a joint statement calling North Korea's nuclear program "a direct threat to the peace and stability" of Asia.

"We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meetings.

North Korea responded the following day by accusing Japan of aspiring to rule a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" beginning with an invasion of Korea with the assistance of the United States. (U.S., Japan 'plotting invasion')

North and South Korea never signed a peace agreement after the 1953 armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, and the border between the two remains the most heavily fortified in the world.


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