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2008/05/01 16:18 KST
N. Korea, U.S. to set up liaison offices in capitals: FM

   By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, May 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States are expected to set up government offices in each other's capitals to oversee the denuclearization process, after the dispute over Pyongyang's declaration of its nuclear holdings is settled, South Korea's top diplomat said Thursday.

   Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said that the office, if established, will monitor North Korea's implementation of its obligations under last year's multilateral deal and the agreed U.S. responses.

   Pyongyang and Washington appear on the verge of resolving months of stand-off over the elements and format of the communist nation's declaration of its plutonium-based program and alleged uranium-enrichment program and cooperation with Syria.

   The North will likely present a declaration acceptable to the U.S. in a week or so, sources say, paving the way for Washington to take steps to remove it from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states.

   It would mark the end of phase two in the three-stage denuclearization process and the start of phase three, in which the North would actually dismantle its nuclear program in return for additional economic aid and political incentives.

   In the process, Yu said, North Korea and the U.S. will need to operate sort of liaison offices in each other's capitals, which may serve as a step towards the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two sides.

   "It will be discussed within the framework of the six-way talks (on the nuclear crisis)," the minister said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

   He said that North Korea is required to submit a "complete and correct" declaration but related countries need to make a political decision on the meaning of complete. Other nations in the nuclear talks are China, Russia, and Japan.

   On the verification issue, Yu said it can be conducted by either the International Atomic Energy Agency or the North's dialogue partners.

   "The matter will be discussed if the six-way talks are held," he said.

   Yu also said as soon as the North presents a declaration, the Bush administration is likely to inform the Congress of its plan to remove North Korea from the terrorism-sponsoring list. "If all the process goes well, the six-way talks can be resumed before the end of May," he said.