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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Hope for further N Korea talks
Yongbyon nuclear reactor - aerial shot
North Korea says diplomacy over its nuclear programme has failed
The United States and South Korea are optimistic that the North Korean nuclear crisis can be solved diplomatically, despite Pyongyang's dismissal of further talks.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said he expected further negotiations "will be held in due time and will produce good results".

James Kelly, the US envoy to North Korea, also expressed hope that a meeting would be scheduled before too long.

But in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon said: "We have been driven not to maintain any interest in or expectation on such talks."

Mr Choe said the US could not expect North Korea to disarm without Washington promising not to attack.

"Under the present circumstance in which (North Korea) and the United States are levelling guns at each other, asking the other party to put down the guns first does not make any sense," he said.

The last round of multinational talks on the North Korean impasse were held in Beijing in August.

The six-nation meeting - involving the US, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia - ended inconclusively.

"We very much hope that (six-party talks) will be scheduled before long," Mr Kelly said, after meeting Japanese and South Korean officials in Tokyo.

He also expressed disappointment at North Korea's latest remarks.

"It's a little different from what we had recalled, and we will continue to try to make sure that the North Korean side understands that the best way to security in the future is not through nuclear weapons," he said.

The South Korean ambassador to the US, Han Seung-soo, said he expected talks to take place no later than November, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Mr Roh also indicated that the timetable and agenda for talks could be hardening up, after intense diplomacy at the United Nations and elsewhere.

Despite the lack of formal talks with the North, behind-the-scenes diplomacy appears to be continuing. Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that North Korean and US diplomats had met with other regional delegates in New York earlier this week.

Military moves

Mr Roh said that a decision on whether to comply with Washington's request that South Korea send troops to Iraq hinged in part on the security situation on the Korean peninsula.

"The utmost task now is to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem peacefully," Mr Roh said.

Mr Roh was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 55th anniversary of South Korea's armed forces.

He said the country should be able to defend itself within 10 years, without recourse to outside help.

South Korea has traditionally relied heavily on its military alliance with the US - there are currently 37,000 American troops stationed in the country.

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