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S.Korea says distrust delaying talks
Updated: 2005-06-01 18:14

SEOUL - Distrust between Washington and Pyongyang is impeding efforts to revive talks on North Korea's nuclear program, despite a recent, but rare, meeting of their officials, South Korea said on Wednesday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told a news conference that Pyongyang and Washington remained divided even though the two sides held a face-to-face meeting last month at the United Nations.

"Despite efforts to clear distrust between the United States and North Korea, the situation is not evolving in a favorable way," Ban said at his weekly press briefing.

He said President Bush's comments on Tuesday -- that there were still diplomatic options available to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions -- were helpful.

"It's either diplomacy or military. And I am for the diplomacy approach," Bush told reporters in Washington.

U.S. officials have said that patience is wearing thin with Pyongyang, which has boycotted the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons programs, for almost a year.

"It is meaningful in that President Bush reaffirmed his stance to resolve the issue in a peaceful and diplomatic manner," Ban said.

In February, North Korea said it possessed nuclear weapons. Concerns that Pyongyang may soon conduct a nuclear test have added impetus to resume the talks that include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Washington and North Korea have been in the midst of a war of words in recent weeks, with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney calling the North's leader Kim Jong-il irresponsible and a tyrant. Pyongyang called Bush a half-baked man and a philistine.

Ban said there is no need to be overly concerned about the heated rhetoric.

"Although improper words between the United States and North Korea were made recently, it is important to understand the stances of (the countries) involved in the six-way talks, rather than being nervous about those words themselves," Ban said.

Bush will meet South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on June 10 in Washington to discuss ways to revive the six-party talks.

In a sign of differences between Pyongyang and Washington, North Korea sent a message to the South on Wednesday requesting Seoul to reduce the number of people it sends to ceremonies to mark a historic bilateral summit by more than half -- blaming U.S. hostility for the move.

North Korean officials asked Seoul to send only 30 government officials instead of 70 to attend ceremonies to mark the fifth anniversary of the June 15, 2000 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

The North said it wanted smaller celebrations because of "Washington's pressure and criticism against Pyongyang over the nuclear issue," according to a statement by South Korea's Unification Ministry.

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