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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 05:44 GMT
N Korea 'not seeking' nuclear arms
South Korean soldiers with an anti-tank launcher near the border
South Korea is anxious to resolve the nuclear crisis
North Korea is reported to have told South Korea that it has no intention of producing nuclear weapons.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
North Korean soldier
16 Oct: N Korea acknowledges secret nuclear programme, US says
14 Nov: Oil shipments to N Korea halted
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors forced to leave North Korea
10 Jan: N Korea pulls out of anti-nuclear treaty
11 Jan: Pyongyang suggests it could resume ballistic missile tests
The statement came in ministerial talks between the two Koreas in the southern capital, Seoul - the highest level dialogue between them for three months.

A spokesman for the South Korean delegation, Rhee Bong-Jo, said the North had spelt out its position on the issue after Seoul raised its concern during the first round of the talks.

"The South emphasized that overall inter-Korean relations would be unable to move ahead without the nuclear question being resolved," Mr Rhee said.

Meanwhile, the US Under Secretary of State, John Bolton, is shortly to meet the South Korean Foreign Minister in Seoul.

Mr Bolton is trying to get backing for Washington's view that the North Korean nuclear crisis should be referred to the United Nations Security Council.

North Korea has been under increasing international pressure to reverse its decision to pull out of the nuclear arms control treaty and reactive a power station capable of producing weapons grade plutonium.

'Reliable steps'

The four-day talks, which are the ninth round of discussions between the two sides since an historic summit in 2000, were supposed to focus on reconciliation and a number of ongoing joint projects.

John Bolton
Mr Bolton is the second high-level US diplomat to visit the region recently

But Seoul has appeared determined to take advantage of the meeting to press for the resolution of the nuclear stand-off.

"Through this round of talks, we aim to persuade the North to take more concrete steps," Mr Rhee said.

He said the talks could help create the conditions for a resumption of dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

"We urged them to take reliable steps the international community could accept," Mr Rhee said.

North Korea has so far resisted any intervention by other countries to defuse the nuclear crisis, calling it a bilateral issue between it and the US.

The United States has said that it is willing to sit down with Pyongyang, but has made no plans to do so.

Analysts believe the North may try to use the meeting to create a split between the South and its traditional ally, Washington.

Russian plan

However, on Tuesday, a Russian envoy spoke optimistically of ending the stand-off.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov
Mr Losyukov: 'Useful and constructive' talks

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, who held six hours of talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, said Pyongyang responded "with interest" to a Russian plan to defuse the crisis.

He told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that the North Korean leadership was currently considering Moscow's plan to end the impasse.

The Russian plan reportedly envisages nuclear-free status for the Korean peninsula, security guarantees for North Korea, and a package of humanitarian and economic aid.

Two other sets of inter-Korean talks are also taking place this week.

One will focus on the reconnection of cross-border road and rail links.

The other, involving Red Cross officials, was expected to set a new date for another round of reunions between relatives from the two Koreas who have been separated since both countries went to war half a century ago.

But those discussions are reported to have stalled due to a dispute over the size for a proposed venue for the reunions.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Seoul still hopes that peaceful diplomacy can resolve the nuclear impasse"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
17 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
21 Jan 03 | Media reports
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