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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 07:00 GMT
Seoul urges dialogue with North
North Korean chief delegate Kim Ryong Song, left, and South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun
Both sides said they sought to prevent war
The South Korean president has warned that the crisis over North Korea's nuclear programme will only be resolved when relations between Pyongyang and Washington improve.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, President Kim Dae-jung said that while South Korea remained wary of the North, his policy of dialogue between the two states was the only way to ease tension on the Korean peninsular.

Sometimes you need to talk to the other party even if you dislike them

Kim Dae-jung, South Korean president
His approach was backed by president-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who said he wanted to meet North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, "even if I lose face in the eyes of my people".

South Korea has also announced it will send a special envoy to Pyongyang next week to discuss the crisis.

Lim Dong-won, a special adviser to Mr Kim, will travel to North Korea on 27 January, the president's office said.

The move came after South Korea said it was disappointed that North Korea did not commit itself to abandon its nuclear ambitions at talks between the two sides in Seoul.

The head of the South Korean delegation, Jeong Se-Hyun, said "not much progress" was made at the meeting - the highest-level talks between the two sides for three months.

The two delegations pledged, however, to resolve the crisis over the North's nuclear project peacefully, and agreed to hold more talks in Pyongyang in April.

Dialogue

President Kim told reporters that he believed there was no alternative to his sunshine policy of engagement with North Korea - despite what he called "significant problems" over the North's nuclear programme.

"For world peace and the benefit of the nation, sometimes you need to talk to the other party even if you dislike them," he said.

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
24 Jan: North-South talks end without making progress

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says Mr Kim's comments can be seen as a veiled criticism of US policies towards the North.

Pyongyang had said it would only hold talks on the nuclear issue with Washington - although some reports now suggest it may accept mediation from its neighbours.

The US has, in the past, said it is not willing to negotiate with the North until it dismantles its suspected nuclear arms programme.

Mr Roh, who will take over in Seoul next month, reinforced the position: "It is important to meet in person without any precondition to have dialogue," he said in an interview on CNN.

"I will propose to meet with chairman Kim Jong-il even if I lose face in the eyes of my people," he said.

No compromise

At the talks in Seoul, South Korean delegates had strongly urged the North to set out specific steps to settle the international stand-off over its nuclear programme.

But a South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman said that the North Korean delegates were adamant that they could not give any concessions unless Pyongyang could discuss the matter directly with Washington.

Following the talks, South Korean spokesman Rhee Bong-Jo said: "North Korea has a different view towards the nuclear issue from ours.

"Of course we have failed to narrow the differences but the agreement to peacefully resolve the issue has significance," he said.

He was referring to a joint statement in which the two sides said: "North and South Korea have exchanged enough of each others' positions on the nuclear issue and agreed to actively co-operate to settle this problem in a peaceful manner."

Despite gaps on the nuclear issue, officials said both sides had made some progress in security and economic co-operation.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

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