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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 April, 2005, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
North and South Korea agree talks
North Korean number two leader Kim Yong Nam (left) and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan in Jakarta
The meeting between the two sides was described as "good"
North and South Korea have agreed to resume their bilateral dialogue, which was suspended last year following a row over defectors.

The decision came after a second meeting between South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and North Korea's parliamentary chief Kim Yong-nam.

Their talks at the Asia-Africa summit were the highest between officials from the two Koreas since June 2000.

Stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear plans were also discussed.

"We had a great deal of frank discussions on important issues... going beyond scheduled time. It was a good meeting," Mr Lee said.

"We had frank discussions about dialogue between the authorities [of the South and North] and the six-party talks," he said.

He was speaking after their second meeting in two days on the sidelines of the summit in Jakarta.

Bilateral discussions have been on hold since July after Pyongyang accused Seoul of "kidnapping" its citizens after mass defections across the border from North to South.

Jitters in region

The meeting was an opportunity for the South to express its concerns about the stalled six-nation talks over the North's development of nuclear weapons, says the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul.

But there was little sign of progress on that, he adds.

A fourth round of the international talks - which include the US, Japan, Russia and China - was due to be held last year but did not take place because of Pyongyang's demand for concessions from the US and an end to what it called Washington's hostile policy.

Mr Kim - officially number two in the North Korean hierarchy - was quoted as saying Pyongyang would return to the table "if the climate is mature".

North Korea has raised the stakes in the nuclear confrontation in recent days, our correspondent says.

It stopped operations at its nuclear reactor and threatened to extract more weapons-grade plutonium, enough for about six atomic bombs.

Pyongyang says it wants to be treated as a nuclear power and that has led to jitters in the region about a possible nuclear weapons test, our correspondent adds.

The US is looking to China and South Korea to bring the North back to the table and has hinted at tougher action - including going to the UN Security Council to ask for sanctions - if that fails.

The chief US negotiator on the issue, Christopher Hill, has arrived in South Korea to talk to officials about reviving the talks, and is due to travel on to China and Japan, says an official.




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