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US, Chinese envoys meet on N.Korea nuke programs
Updated: 2005-03-03 13:23

US and Chinese envoys huddled to discuss North Korea's nuclear weapons drive after the Stalinist country said it was ready to return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling its atomic programs.

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, left, is guided by South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young at the Government House in Seoul, Thursday, March 3, 2005. Wu arrived Wednesday to discuss ways of reviving stalled six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. [AP]

China's top nuclear envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, and US Ambassador to Seoul Christopher Hill, who heads Washington's negotiating team to the talks, met at the US embassy here.

US officials refused to give details on the meeting.

Wu arrivedWednesday for a three-day trip which included talks with Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon and other South Korean officials.

North Korea said Wednesday that it would return to nuclear disarmament talks if Washington "takes a trustworthy sincere attitude and moves to provide conditions and justification" for resuming discussions.

The isolated nation demanded the United States apologize for branding it part of an "axis of evil" and an "outpost of tyranny", calling on Washington to clarify its willingness to co-exist with Pyongyang.

The United States brushed off the demand and insisted North Korea should resume talks "without delay and without preconditions."

"Our view is that the best course of action for everybody is to resume six-party talks as soon as possible," said US Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

"If they have questions or issues that they want to address, then that's the place to do it," he said.

North Korea on February 10 announced it possessed nuclear weapons and was withdrawing indefinitely from the six-party talks aimed at curbing its nuclear weapons drive.

But North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il later told Chinese communist party official Wang Jiarui that Pyongyang would return to talks if "certain conditions" were met.

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, have met three times since 2003, with the last round held in June. North Korea boycotted a fourth round scheduled for last September, citing "hostile" US policy.

The nuclear standoff erupted in October 2002 when the United States accused North Korea of operating a program based on highly enriched uranium.

Pyongyang denied that charge but restarted a plutonium-based program frozen under a 1994 arms control agreement.

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