06/13/2005, 00.00
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South Korea's Roh "very sure" nuclear talks will resume

In his recent meeting with George Bush, Roh insisted on the need to offer Pyongyang concrete proposals rather than threaten it with international sanctions.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said he was "very sure" international nuclear talks with North Korea would resume and called for more flexibility in offering incentives to convince Pyongyang to disarm.

"The six-party talks are going to be resumed. I'm very sure about this," Mr Roh told a Seoul conference marking the fifth anniversary of the historic 2000 summit in Pyongyang between the leaders of the two Koreas.

Roh was back from a one-day trip to Washington where he met US President George W. Bush on June 10.

The US still insists on imposing sanctions should North Korea fail to return to the negotiating table; by contrast, South Korea calls for greater flexibility from both sides whilst maintaining economic ties to the North.

According to South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon, the two leaders agreed on offering North Korea a security guarantee, substantial aid and improved relations with Washington in exchange for scrapping its nuclear programs.

North Korea has boycotted the six-nation talks—that include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States—for nearly a year, citing "hostile" US policies designed to achieve regime change in the North.

However, in his meeting with Roh, Bush reiterated that Washington had no plans to attack the North.

Foreign Minister Ban said the US president pledged to build "more normal relations" with Pyongyang if and when the nuclear standoff is resolved.

President Roh said he hoped there would be "more flexible talks and negotiations" when the stalled nuclear talks resume.

"It's time for North Korea to make a decision—by renouncing their nuclear program they have an opportunity to realize regional security and development," he said.

"Even though the North Korean nuclear issue remains, I don't think it's a reason to have relations between the two Koreas stagnate," he added.

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the first-and-only meeting in June 2000 between leaders of the two sides, told the conference that the time was not yet ripe for pushing sanctions on Pyongyang. He said he doubted whether most countries of the six-party talks such as Russia and Japan would agree.

This week, a large South Korean delegation headed by Unification Minister Chung Dong-young will travel to Pyongyang to celebrate the 2000 summit that had raised so many hopes.

Despite progress in some areas such as economic exchanges and reunifications of some families split by the Cold War, the nuclear issue has prevented further thawing of relations on the Korean peninsula. 

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