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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Two Koreas agree to more talks
Satellite image of North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Centre - archive picture
North Korea's nuclear plans are stoking concern
Bilateral talks between North and South Korea have ended without a breakthrough on Pyongyang's nuclear plans.

South Korea announced it would ship 200,000 tonnes of desperately-needed fertiliser to the North.

The two sides also said they agreed to work towards peace in the region, and will hold further talks in June.

But there was no mention of North Korea's nuclear ambitions, which South Korea had wanted to be included in the discussions.

Separately, the US confirmed that it held working-level talks with the North Koreans last week in New York.

"This channel is used to convey messages about US policy, not to negotiate," a spokeswoman from the US embassy in Tokyo said.

She added that the last such meeting had taken place in December.

Improving ties

According to the BBC's Seoul correspondent, the South Korean government was facing a dilemma during the talks.

On one hand it said it would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea, but it was also desperate not to antagonise its neighbour.

When the North agreed to resume talks this week - after a 10 month gap - the South pushed for progress on the nuclear weapons issue.

But the North Koreans steadfastly refuse to discuss the issue, and, after two days of tense meetings, the Southern side backed down.

Other topics on the agenda, apart from the nuclear issue, included more reunions of families separated since the division of the Korean Peninsula and the restoration of road and rail links.

North Korea had demanded the fertiliser for this year's crops.

In recent months the North has declared itself a nuclear weapons state, and claims to be building up its nuclear arsenal.

It is refusing to return to the stalled nuclear talks with its neighbours and the United States.

Analysts see the inter-Korean meeting as a test of Seoul's willingness to use its economic leverage with the North.

The South Korean government has opposed any talk of sanctions against the North, frustrating hardliners in Washington who favour a more coercive approach.




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