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Politics/Diplomacy
2008/05/22 15:25 KST
S. Korea seeks to buy N. Korean nuclear fuel rods

   SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is pushing to purchase nuclear fuel rods stored at North Korea's main atomic facility as work continues for the disablement of the complex under a denuclearization agreement, a senior South Korean government official said Thursday.

   South Korea thinks the unused rods in Yongbyon can be used at its nuclear power plants, he added.

   "Details of the purchase plan will be discussed at the six-way talks (on North Korea's nuclear program)," the official said in a background briefing for domestic reporters.

   North Korea has been disabling the reactor since last year, when it signed an aid-for-denuclearization deal with the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

   It is part of the first phase of the three-stage process, along with Pyongyang's promised declaration of its nuclear holdings.

   North Korea has already implemented eight of the total 11 disablement steps. It is also expected to present the declaration in the coming days.

   The official said North Korea and the U.S. are in the final stage of consultations on the declaration, adding the six-way talks will likely resume in the first half of next month.

   He said Japan is committed to implementing its obligations under the nuclear agreement.

   "Japan expressed an explicit intention to participate in the provision of economic and energy aid to North Korea, depending on the pace of the thorny abduction issue's resolution," he said.

   Japan has refused to provide aid, citing the unresolved issue involving the North's abduction of Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 1980s.

   The official's comments came after the top nuclear envoys from South Korea, the U.S., and Japan had talks in Washington earlier this week.

   Kim Sook, Seoul's top nuclear negotiator, plans to travel to Moscow next week, his aides said.

   lcd@yna.co.kr
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