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Seoul Warns N. Korea on Nuclear Talks

March 15, 2004|From Associated Press

SEOUL — South Korea warned rival North Korea today not to use the South's presidential impeachment vote as an excuse for complicating talks over the North's nuclear weapons programs.

Communist North Korea has condemned its neighbor's pending presidential impeachment as a U.S.-masterminded "coup." And inter-Korean economic talks to be held in the South were scuttled after Pyongyang expressed concern over the "very unstable" situation.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon said today that Seoul was sticking to its policy of finding a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis and urged the North to do the same.

"If North Korea uses the impeachment as an excuse to be reluctant or to try avoiding six-party talks, we'll have to question North Korea's commitment to seeking peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue," Ban said.

The United States, the Koreas, China, Russia and Japan held talks last month in Beijing aimed at easing tensions, but negotiations ended without a breakthrough.

Ban said he was dispatching negotiator Lee Soo Hyuck to Beijing on Tuesday for two days of talks on setting up working-level groups to nail down details before the six nations meet again before July.

The premise for the impeachment vote was a minor election-law violation by President Roh Moo Hyun, and the move was widely seen as political. Prime Minister Ko Kon is in charge until the Constitutional Court decides whether to oust Roh.

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