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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Fragile Korean talks resume
A North Korean soldier (R) looks at a South Korean soldier
North Korea has been angered by the South's position
North and South Korean delegates struggling to hold together a summit on economic co-operation have resumed talks in Pyongyang.

The talks were halted after angry exchanges over last week's summit in Washington between President George Bush and the South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun.

Reports from the North Korean capital say only two representatives from each side took part in the 40-minute meeting and agreed to meet again later on Thursday.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said the North had made a proposal which may resolve the impasse - triggered by its chief delegate's warning that the South faced "an unspeakable disaster" if it continued to side with the US in the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

South Korean spokesman Cho Myoung-gyun said the North's draft offer was noted and dispatched to Seoul for consultation.

"The North Korean side proposed that it should explain its own position concerning the breach of the principle of a news blackout on key-note speeches and the contents," he said.

Nuclear blackmail

He added that the future of this round of talks will be decided after they review each other's positions.

The international community must not inadvertently legitimise the possession of nuclear weapons as a currency of power for would-be proliferators
Mohamed ElBaradei
International Atomic Energy Agency
The talks initially broke down after the comments made by North Korean delegate Pak Chang-ryon, with South Korea insisting on an explanation of the remarks and of North Korea's decision to publish them in violation of an agreed news blackout.

Pyongyang wants Seoul to explain an apparent hardening of its policy towards North Korea.

It appears to have been angered by the threat of "further steps" in the joint statement issued by the US and South Korea after the Washington summit.

It was not clear what those "further steps" were, but they could include the adoption of sanctions, or even military action.

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) urged the international community to stand up to North Korea's attempts at "nuclear blackmail".

In a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal, Mohamed ElBaradei said: "In seeking to defuse a volatile situation, the international community must not inadvertently legitimise the possession of nuclear weapons as a currency of power for would-be proliferators - a precedent that could jeopardise the future of the nuclear-arms-control regime."

Defectors' claims

He said North Korea "believes that its alleged weapons capability can be used as a bargaining chip - for security guarantees, for humanitarian aid, and possibly for raising its stature as a regional power".

He urged North Korea to make the first move "by a demonstration of good faith - by accepting its obligations for nuclear non-proliferation".

Meanwhile, a man said to be a North Korean defector has told a sub-committee of the US Senate that 90% of the parts used in the nuclear programme were smuggled through informal channels from Japan.

Another defector alleged that North Korea used illicit heroin exports to gain foreign exchange.

A group representing Korean residents in Japan who are loyal to North Korea denied the claims.




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