Friday, August 12, 2005

U.S. Denies Rift With South Korea Over North's Nuclear Power Top Worldwide

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government denied a rift had formed with South Korea over whether North Korea can maintain a civilian nuclear power program as part of a future agreement to end the North's atomic weapons development.

Six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear program ended on Aug. 7 after 13 days of discussions in Beijing faltered on U.S. demands that the country end all its nuclear programs. South Korea's chief negotiator at the talks, Chung Dong Young, said yesterday the North should be allowed to keep its civilian power reactors.

``There's no rift between the United States and South Korea,'' Adam Ereli, deputy State Department spokesman, said yesterday at a press briefing in Washington, posted on its Web site today. ``We are close partners in a broad bilateral relationship, and particularly in our common approach to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.''

Ereli declined to comment when asked why he and other officials, including Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator, earlier said South Korea and the U.S. were in agreement on the issue. Chung outlined a compromise whereby the North would be able to keep its civilian reactors for electric power generation as long as it ended a $4.6 billion light water reactor project, the International Herald Tribune reported today.

The fourth round of talks involving China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the U.S. stalled in Beijing after North Korea insisted on retaining a peaceful nuclear capability in the form of power plants to generate electricity. The U.S. objects on concerns North Korea may produce fissionable material that could be use to make nuclear warheads. North Korea said in February that it has nuclear bombs.

The talks, which resumed July 26 after a 13-month hiatus, will start again in the week of Aug. 29. The U.S. and its allies are offering electricity, food, economic aid and security guarantees to North Korea if it scraps all its nuclear programs.


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