- SEOUL (Reuters) - Officials
from North and South Korea agreed on Friday to seek a peaceful end to the
crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, but Seoul voiced disappointment
at the lack of more substantive progress.
- "The South and North fully exchanged each other's
positions regarding the nuclear issue and agreed to cooperate toward a
peaceful resolution to this problem," they said in a statement released
on the final day of ministerial talks in Seoul that began on Tuesday.
- The statement conformed to an earlier draft.
- The talks, which had dragged on through the night, marked
a break from the communist North's usual refusal to discuss with the South
such issues, like the nuclear crisis, that it regards as more broadly international.
- However, South Korean officials were clearly unhappy
that they had failed to convince the delegates from Pyongyang to do more
to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
- "We did not see a lot of progress during this round
of talks, but we were able to offer measures instead of debating and listened
to each other's opinions, rather than putting forward unilateral demands,"
Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said.
- In past talks, delegates from isolated North Korea usually
refused even to enter into discussion of issues beyond economic cooperation,
avoiding any hint of political debate.
- North Korea has blamed the United States for the crisis
and accused U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of bias in urging Pyongyang
to reconsider its decision this month to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation
- The crisis was sparked in October when the United States
said the North had admitted developing nuclear arms. Pyongyang later ejected
U.N. nuclear inspectors and removed seals from a mothballed reactor.
- A spokesman for South Korea underscored Seoul's disappointment
at Pyongyang's attitude.
- "Regarding the North's nuclear problem, we were
not able to make forward movement in terms of attitude, but we fully delivered
our and the international community's concerns about the nuclear problem,"
Unification Ministry official Rhee Bong-jo said in comments on the brief
- However, he welcomed Pyongyang's agreement to include
a reference to a peace resolution in the statement.
- "The most significant aspect is the North's willingness
to continue peaceful efforts," Rhee said.
- The United States has said the issue could be referred
soon to the United Nations Security Council. Pyongyang has said any move
by the United Nations to impose sanctions would deepen the crisis and could
even trigger war.