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The BBC's Samantha Simmonds reports
"George W Bush has signalled he wants to initiate new talks with one of Americas former enemies"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington
"The issues are still the same"
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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Washington still remains suspicious of the North's military capabilities"
 real 56k

Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
US-N Korea missile talks welcomed
Missile range graphic
North Korea's missiles could put the US within range
Regional governments have welcomed a US initiative to resume talks with North Korea on the country's missile programme, four months after Washington suspended them.

President George W Bush announced on Wednesday that the review of US policy towards North Korea had been completed and he had directed his national security team to hold "serious discussions" with Pyongyang.

South Korea urged the North to take a sincere approach to new talks, saying they were based on recent close co-operation between South Korea and the US.

George W Bush
Bush: Sanctions may be eased if North Korea co-operates

Australia and Japan called the US move constructive.

The resumption of talks could clear the way for a new summit between the two Koreas.

The US initiative follows a review of relations with Pyongyang, focusing on its missile plans and the heavy North Korean troop build-up along the South Korean border.

President Bush has said the United States is willing to resume security talks with North Korea on its missile programme - hinting that sanctions could be relaxed if progress is made.

Strict verification

Earlier negotiations were broken off at the end of President Bill Clinton's administration, which came close to getting Pyongyang to limit its missile programme.

But President Bush has already said he does not trust the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, and that his aides will demand much stricter verification of any deal than the Clinton team would have required.

If North Korea... takes appropriate action, we will expand our efforts to help [its] people, ease sanctions, and take other political steps

President Bush
The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington says it is not clear whether the North Koreans will be prepared to accept such terms from a US administration it condemns as hostile and aggressive.

If talks do go ahead, they will cover what President Bush called a broad agenda - including the North's missile programme and massive deployment of troops near South Korea's border.

South Korea talks

The South Korean Government, which has embarked on a "sunshine policy" towards the North, hailed the move and urged Pyongyang to take a sincere attitude.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is discussing the issue on Thursday with South Korea's Foreign Minister, Han Seung-soo.

Kim Jong-il
Bush says Kim Jong-il cannot be trusted

North Korea is under US sanctions due to its designation as a state sponsor of international terrorism.

After the abrupt halt in negotiations with the US, which were intense during the last months of the Clinton administration, Pyongyang reacted angrily and cut off reconciliation talks with the South.

At issue is the North's long-range missile programme. US officials are concerned that Pyongyang's rockets could one day reach US territory.

North Korea's exports of missiles to Iran and other countries have also alarmed Washington. The North Korean leader said last month he intended to continue missile sales because his government needed the money.

Ship dispute

The military authority will take stern action, including the use of force

South Korean defence minister
Relations between the two Koreas came under strain this week over five commercial North Korean cargo ships entering southern waters on four separate occassions.

On Thursday, following another incursion, South Korea's Defence Minister Kim Dong-Shin threatened to use force against North Korean cargo ships if any ships came entered the country's waters again.

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See also:

14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
EU to open North Korea ties
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea 'maintains missile test ban'
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: North Korea reaches out
24 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean missile breakthrough
06 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea and US move closer
23 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pyongyang reaches out
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
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