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North Korea proposes Cabinet-level talks with South Korea

Saturday, April 19, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea on Saturday renewed an offer to hold high-level talks with South Korea, a week after the North abruptly canceled such a meeting.

The proposal came a day after the communist state appeared to announce steps that could yield six to eight bombs within months.

North Korea said in an English language broadcast for foreign consumption that it was reprocessing more than 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods.

Later, questions arose as to accuracy of the translation.

A U.S. government translation of the original Korean language version suggested that the country was only at "the point of reprocessing."

The confusion about North Korea's intentions came just days after the State Department disclosed plans for talks involving the United States, North Korea and China, possibly by next Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell called that development good news.

In its statement today, North Korea proposed holding a Cabinet-level sessions on April 27-29 in Pyongyang.

The North suspended several talks including a Cabinet-level meeting last week amid tension over the nuclear weapons issue.

On Friday, South Korea's Unification Ministry urged North Korea to come to inter-Korean dialogue as soon as possible to discuss peace on the Korean Peninsula and other issues.

South Korea had hoped to use the bilateral talks to discuss reconciliation and persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and better ties with the outside world.


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