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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 17:49 GMT
S Korea press divided over North
South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun greets his North Korean counterpart Kim Ryong Song
More talks to bridge the great divide

As cabinet-level talks between the two Koreas get under way in Seoul, South Korean newspapers mull whether Pyongyang can be persuaded to give up its drive for nuclear weapons.

The Korea Herald says that after months of escalation, there are faint signs that tension is easing.

"A sudden flurry of inter-Korean dialogue at different levels warrants guarded optimism for a breakthrough in this tough diplomatic game," the paper says.

Nothing is more serious than the North's attempt to build nuclear weapons of mass destruction

Korea Times

The North Koreans "may well make the most of these events to break the ice and get the negotiations started, thereby finding a way out of their desperate survival game."

Sensitive issue

The four-day talks are aimed at promoting North-South projects such as a planned cross-border railway, but the South Korean Government has pledged to use them to urge its neighbour to give up its nuclear programme.

The Korea Times calls on the Seoul government to hold firm against the North's efforts to sidestep the nuclear issue.

"The government has repeatedly vowed to tell the North in clear-cut terms that its nuclear weapons development can never be tolerated when the sides meet at the ninth round of the ministerial talks. But the reality is tough for Seoul," the paper says.

Pyongyang must not believe that it can co-operate with the South in a fight against the United States

Chungang Ilbo

"The ministerial-level conference between the two sides is meaningless unless the crucial question of the nuke issue is on the agenda. Nothing is more serious than the North's attempt to build nuclear weapons of mass destruction."

'Misguided logic'

Chungang Ilbo recalls that Pyongyang has sought co-operation between the two Koreas "against what it terms aggressive intentions by the United States, while maintaining that the nuclear programme is a matter for itself and Washington alone to resolve."

In an editorial headed "The North Must Start Moving", it says there is "seriously misguided and mistaken logic" in this view.

Pyongyang "must not believe that it can co-operate with the South in a fight against the United States."

"President-elect No has said that the South will work with the United States to resolve the issue peacefully; what we will never do is recognise the legitimacy of the North's nuclear programme," the daily adds.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

13 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
19 Feb 03 | Country profiles
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