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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Uranium Program is Eyed as US-North Korea Talks Continue

VOA News October 25, 2011

The United States and North Korea sat down for a second day of nuclear talks in Geneva Tuesday, with attention focusing on Pyongyang's recently revealed uranium enrichment program.

U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth said he was neither hopeful nor pessimistic before departing for the talks, which started several hours later than expected.

"I have nothing to add now after what I said last night, we will be back to you some time in the course of the afternoon," he said. Bosworth also said he had no expectations.

Bosworth sounded more optimistic after Monday's first round of talks with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-kwan. He said the talks on terms for a resumption of international negotiations on North Korea's nuclear programs were "moving in a positive direction."

One of those issues is likely to be North Korea's sophisticated uranium enrichment program, which was revealed when officials showed it to an American nuclear scientist last year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting Chinese official Monday he wants the six-party talks to resume on the basis of a six-part agreement completed in 2005. But the other participants were unaware of the uranium program at that time.

The program is of deep concern in Seoul, where a South Korean official said the Geneva talks are being closely monitored.

"We are closely monitoring how the second day of the US-North Korea talks will go. South Korea and the US are continuously in close cooperation regarding this matter. Through the South-North contacts and the US-North contacts, we hope that all can meet necessary measures to resume the six-party-talks," the official said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said South Korea is keeping in constant contact with both sides to the talks.

Another South Korean official spoke to the Yonhap news agency on the basis of anonymity. He said it is essential that North Korea freeze the nuclear program and permit international inspectors into the facility before the six-party talks can resume.

North Korea has been calling for the talks to resume without conditions. But according to Chinese media, Kim Jong Il told Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Monday that the talks should resume on the basis of an agreement reached in 2005.

The so-called September 19 agreement calls for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a U.S. promise not to attack North Korea. The North would also receive diplomatic and economic benefits, including the provision of electric power from South Korea.

Despite the reported progress, some South Korean residents say they do not trust anything that comes out of the Geneva talks.

"South Korean people cannot trust North Korea trying to talk with the U.S. because if the North wants to show its sincerity, it should rather continuously talk with South Korea rather than the US, as South Korea is the one directly facing the issues in the Korean peninsula," says Seoul resident Yoo Sung-jin.

Yoo Sung-jin adds if North Korea was sincere, it would be talking to the South Korean government, not the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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