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Seoul Hopes For Inter-Korean Talks on Missile, Nuclear Issues at ARF  

Seoul Hopes For Inter-Korean Talks on Missile, Nuclear Issues at ARF

 SEOUL, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - South Korea's foreign minister said Wednesday he hopes to meet his North Korean counterpart for talks on the North's missile and nuclear programmes on the sidelines of an Asian security forum next week.    Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, who will attend the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Kuala Lumpur on July 28, said he hopes his North Korean opposite number will attend as planned. “We are in the middle of reaffirming North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun's participation. He had planned to take part but nothing concrete has since been reaffirmed," Ban told a weekly briefing. "We are expecting to have a chance to exchange opinions on inter-Korean ties, missile and other issues, and deliver our position through a bilateral contact there." Ban said he expects tensions over North Korea's July 5 missile tests and nuclear program will be high on the agenda of the regional security forum. "If North Korea's foreign minister comes, the foreign ministers of all of the countries participating in six-way talks would gather at one place," Ban said, in reference to stalled nuclear disarmament talks. "In relation to regional security, we expect a lot of opinions on North Korean missiles to be exchanged at the forum."


  North Korea set off fresh alarm bells with its test-launching of seven missiles in defiance of international appeals. The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the tests and imposed missile-related sanctions. Pyongyang rejected the UN move and threatened to bolster its defences. The communist state has long been locked in a standoff with the United States and its allies over its nuclear weapons program. Six-nation talks aimed at defusing the nuclear tensions have stalled since November.


  South Korea, which has improved ties with North Korea since a 2000 peace summit, has suspended humanitarian aid including food assistance to its neighbour in protest at the missile tests. But Seoul said it would continue peaceful engagement with Pyongyang. The operation of a South Korean-built industrial park at Kaesong in North Korea would remain unaffected by the UN resolution, Ban said. jkw/sm

Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2006
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