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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 12:09 GMT
N Korea pressed on nuclear deal
South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-Joung (R) and his North Korean counterpart Kwon Ho-Ung
The two Koreas have set out their hopes for the meeting
South Korea has urged North Korea to quickly implement its pledges under a recently-agreed nuclear deal as the two met for high-level talks in Pyongyang.

North Korea in turn called for the resumption of humanitarian projects and greater economic ties with the South.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity since the North agreed to halt its nuclear programme in return for aid at six-party talks on 13 February.

In the latest sign of progress, Japan and the North are to meet next week.

Tokyo said it would use the talks - in Vietnam - to discuss the dispute over some of its citizens, who were kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 80s to train North Korean spies.

Humanitarian projects

South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung used the meeting in Pyongyang to express his regret for the North's missile and nuclear tests last year, Yonhap news agency reports.

The tests led to the suspension of the inter-Korean talks as well as aid.

Implementation of 13 February nuclear deal
Resumption of food and fertiliser shipments
Joint economic and rail projects
Resumption of family reunions

He called for the North to fulfil its promise to "shut down and seal" its only nuclear reactor, Yongbyon, in return for aid in a "quick and smooth manner", Yonhap said.

In return, North Korea's chief negotiator Kwon Ho-ung proposed to resume humanitarian projects on a full scale as soon as the ministerial talks end on Friday.

He did not specify which humanitarian projects, but analysts believe he was referring to the resumption of reunions of families separated following the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945.

The North is also expected to press for the resumption of badly needed food aid.

The South suspended its annual aid of 500,000 tonnes of rice and 350,000 tonnes of fertiliser after the North tested a series of ballistic missiles in July, and then launched a nuclear test.

A South Korean spokesman said the issue of food and fertiliser was not raised by the North during the two-hour session.

"We have yet to determine the scope of full-scale resumption of humanitarian projects. The details will emerge from working-level, high-level negotiations," Lee Kwan-se said.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says South Korean officials appear eager to resume aid shipments, despite domestic political pressure not to give too much away too easily.

Abduction issue

Various discussion groups have been planned under the 13 February deal agreed in Beijing - one of which is a bilateral meeting between Japan and North Korea.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki announced on Wednesday that these talks would take place next week in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Japan is expected to use the meeting to push for answers on the abduction of its citizens by North Korea, and insists it will not establish diplomatic relations with Pyongyang unless the dispute is resolved.

"There will be no normalising of ties without a resolution of the abduction issue," said Mr Shiozaki.

North Korea has admitted to abducting Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies. It returned five of these abductees in 2002, and says the eight others are dead.

But Japan is demanding more information, and the issue has outraged many ordinary Japanese citizens.

Japan - which was a major funder of the last nuclear deal with North Korea in 1994, that eventually broke down - has said it will not fund this latest deal until the abductee issue is resolved.

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