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September 13, 2009

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S. Korea supports US talks with North

SOUTH Korea said yesterday that it would support direct talks between the United States and North Korea so long as they were aimed at advancing multilateral negotiations on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

The US State Department had said on Friday it was prepared to hold such talks to try to coax North Korea back to the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia. Previously, US officials had sent mixed signals about direct meetings, at times saying Pyongyang must first commit to resume the multilateral discussions and at others saying bilateral talks could only occur "in the context" of the multilateral discussions.

"We are prepared to enter into a bilateral discussion with North Korea," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Friday. The department denied changing its policy, saying any bilateral meeting would be to bring Pyongyang back to multilateral talks.

"When it'll happen, where it'll happen, we'll have to wait and see," Crowley added. "We've made no decisions at this point, other than just to say we are prepared for a bilateral talk, if that will help advance the six-party process."

In Seoul yesterday, foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said: "We have the same position on the issue. South Korea will not oppose US-North Korea bilateral talks if they are held to advance the six-party talks to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue."

The six-party talks broke down at the end of last year, with the North declaring the process "dead." The Obama administration is searching for a way to revive them.


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