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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korea Nuclear Weapons Talks to Resume December 18

11 December 2006

Stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs will resume this month. They are expected to be brief, and many experts are skeptical about whether they will make any serious progress towards ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

South Korean authorities expressed support Monday, for the scheduled resumption of talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons.

South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Choo Kyu-ho said Seoul welcomes the news that the six-party talks will resume next Monday, December 18, in Beijing.

China, Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea have tried for three years to convince the North through diplomacy to give up its nuclear programs in exchange for political and financial benefits.

Soon after it signed a pledge in September last year, agreeing in principle to give up its nuclear weapons, North Korea boycotted further talks in protest at U.S. financial measures targeting North Korean business interests.

The United States says those measures, which had the effect of restricting North Korea's access to the international banking system, were law enforcement measures needed to protect U.S. interests from North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting.

North Korea has said resolving the financial issue must be one of the goals of the six-party talks.

Ryoo Kihl-Jae, dean of Kyungnam University's School of North Korean Studies in South Korea, says the North's test of a nuclear device in October may have given China and the United States fresh impetus to cooperate on convincing the North to negotiate.

He says China is likely to pressure the North not to miss this opportunity to get what it wants from the United States.

On Monday, North Korea repeated a demand it has made before, that Japan be left out of the six-party talks. An editorial in Pyongyang's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper labelled Japan as "a state of the United States" which would only distract the talks with side issues.

Japan, which maintains a hard line on the North Korean nuclear issue, demands that Pyongyang do more to address its abductions of Japanese nationals in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

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