North, South Korea ministers meet on nuclear issue


  • World
  • Thursday, 28 Jul 2005

By Jon Herskovitz

VIENTIANE (Reuters) - North and South Korean foreign ministers met for only the third time on Thursday and agreed on the need for substantial developments in multilateral talks in Beijing to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions. 

The 50-minute meeting between South Korea's Ban Ki-moon and the North's Paek Nam-sun was held on the sidelines of a meeting of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. 

South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon (L) shake hands with North Korea's Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun at a hotel in Vientiane, July 28, 2005. (REUTERS/Chaiwat Subrasom)

In Beijing, negotiations aimed at defusing the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes crept into a third day with Washington and Pyongyang still far apart on proposals for disarming the reclusive North. 

"Both sides agreed that we wanted substantial developments in the six-party talks, which will be important for a resolution of the nuclear issue, peace on the Korean peninsula and regional security," the two foreign ministers said in a statement. 

Before going into the talks, Paek told reporters Pyongyang was committed to resolving the nuclear dispute through dialogue. 

"We are trying to make real progress in the six-party talks," he said after shaking hands with Ban and heading into the meeting. 

Ban said ties between North and South Korea, divided by the world's last Cold War frontier, were warming at an unprecedented rate and he wanted more frequent meetings with his opposite number. 

North and South Korea have stepped up bilateral contacts in recent months and reached deals concerning commerce, military confidence building and reuniting through video conferencing families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. 

But Paek did not reply to the request for regular discussions, a South Korean official said. 

RARE EVENT 

After the meeting, North Korea held a rare news conference at which Foreign Ministry official Jong Song-il answered questions in Korean and English about the talks between the two ministers. 

"Both sides agreed that having substantial and constructive developments in the talks will be very important for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issues and for regional peace and security," Jong said. 

Ban said on Wednesday Seoul was waiting for North Korea to respond to an offer to supply it with a large amount of electricity when the reclusive state dismantles its nuclear programmes, a South Korea official said. 

South Korea has said its offer to supply North Korea with 2,000 megawatts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the North's total power output, if it scrapped its nuclear plans, could be key to resolving the nuclear weapons crisis. 

The South Korea government official quoted Paek as saying the North appreciated the offer of electricity aid and Pyongyang was looking to explore the offer further through bilateral talks. 

The foreign ministers of the two states, which stare at each other across their heavily fortified border, met for the first time in 2000 and again about a year ago. 

At last year's meeting, Ban proposed they open a regular channel of communications between their delegations at the United Nations in New York. But shortly afterwards, ties became strained and the North suspended all bilateral contact. 

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