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China to announce date for resuming NK nuke talks
Updated: 2005-09-07 12:48

China is sounding out the participants of the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program to decide when the recessed negotiations can resume, South Korea's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Ban Ki-moon said China will officially announce the date "soon" and that he expects the talks to restart early next week.

The talks _ recessed since early August _ were supposed to resume last week, but North Korea delayed their resumption by two weeks citing U.S.-South Korean military exercises and Washington's appointment of a special envoy on North Korea's human rights.

On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that the North had told China it wants to resume the talks September 13 and that Beijing had relayed this position to South Korea. None of the participants confirmed the reports. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

"I anticipate the second phase of the six-party talks to resume early next week," Ban said at a weekly press briefing. "The host country is now confirming the final positions of participants on a specific date."

Ban said the talks will be open-ended and involve various formats, including bilateral meetings, to accelerate progress.

But he was cautious about the prospects for the talks.

"This is a six-party meeting. There should be an agreement from the six parties. I cannot predict the outcome at the current stage," he said.

The latest stumbling block is how to reconcile North Korea's demand for a right to a civilian nuclear program with the U.S. position that the communist state should not be allowed any nuclear program at all because it has a record of breaking promises on the issue.

On Tuesday, North Korea reasserted its position, calling the idea it could yield to outside pressure and dismantle its atomic power industry "unimaginable ... without getting any proposal for compensating for the loss of nuclear energy."

The North also urged the United States to acknowledge its "legitimate right to nuclear activity for a peaceful purpose and take an option to find a fair settlement of the nuclear issue."

The latest session of the six-party talks was the fourth round since August 2003. The nuclear row broke out in late 2002 after U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted to running a secret nuclear program in violation of an earlier deal to abandon its weapons ambitions.

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