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Russia: Korea nuke talks in late Jan.
Updated: 2004-12-06 16:15

North Korea could return to six-party talks on its nuclear programs in late January after US President Bush forms his new cabinet, Russian ambassador to Japan Alexander Losyukov said Monday.

"Probably, the negotiations could be restarted sometime at the end of January," Losyukov, Russia's former point man on the talks, told reporters. "We think the sooner we restart the negotiations, the better."

North Korea said on Saturday it would not return to the talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, until Bush assembled his new team and Washington decided its policy toward Pyongyang.

The six parties have met for three rounds of talks in Beijing but made little progress. A fourth round scheduled for September never materialized.

The nuclear standoff started two years ago when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted to pursuing a secret uranium enrichment program, something the North has since denied.

Losyukov, whose country is one of North Korea's closest allies, also said he saw no signs of "regime change" in the isolated communist state.

"It is a very secluded system. They have been surviving as such for quite a long time ... They can go on like that for a number of years," he said. "We cannot expect some kind of collapse of the system in the near future."

Reports from diplomats and officials have said some of the long ubiquitous portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had been removed from public places and fewer people were wearing lapel badges of Kim.

The reports have sparked rumors of a coup in the North.

"I have not heard of any indications of possible collapse of the regime or drastic changes," he said. "I have not seen any evidence that changes are coming there."

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