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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 23:43 GMT
Korean nuclear talks 'went well'
South Korean soldiers man their post along a barbed wire fence inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea
The two Koreas remain technically at war
North and South Korea say talks between them to resolve the crisis over the North's nuclear programme have gone well.

Lim Dong-won, a South Korean security adviser, met a close confidant of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang on Monday.

He said talks were "sincere," the Associated Press news agency reported.

North Korea's state news service said the discussions were held "in an atmosphere overflowing with compatriotic feelings and mutual understanding".

Mr Lim and an envoy of South Korea's newly-elected President Roh Moo-hyun are expected to stay in North Korea for two or three more days.

South Korea's media has speculated that Mr Lim will met with the North Korean leader.

North Korea has made a key concession on cross-border road and rail links with South Korea, South Korean officials have said.

RE-LINKING THE KOREAS
Donghae (eastern) rail line due to link with Russia
Gyeongui (western) rail line due to link with China
Parallel roads also planned
The move means that tourists and businessmen from the South could be able to cross over into North Korea within weeks.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says North Korea's decision to allow the visit indicates it is now willing to accept mediation from its neighbours.

Before, it had said it would only discuss the nuclear issue with Washington.

North Korea's concession in the separate, cross-border talks ends months of wrangling over who should control the so-called Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

Analysts said North Korea might be pushing for progress with the South as a way to undermine South Korea's alliance with the United States, which favours a much harder line policy on engaging with the North.

'Cat's paw'

Mr Lim's visit comes a day after the US said it had no intention of attacking North Korea but warned the nuclear standoff was a danger to Asia.

North Korea on Monday hit out at the United Nations nuclear watchdog, describing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the "cat's paw" of the United States.

CRISIS CHRONOLOGY
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
"It is... an objective reality that the secretariat of the IAEA is not in a position to discuss the DPRK's (North Korea) issue and the days are gone, never to return, when it could unreasonably handle it," reported North Korea's state news agency.

The Vienna-based IAEA has said it will hold an emergency session on 3 February to decide whether to refer the nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.

The crisis started last October, when the US said North Korea had admitted it was working on a banned nuclear weapons programme.

The US stopped fuel aid to North Korea in protest, and that led to North Korea expelling United Nations weapons inspections and announcing it was reactivating a previous nuclear programme.

Earlier this month North Korea announced it was pulling out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"Some kind of brokerage is needed"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

26 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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