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US, Asian Allies Urge N. Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks

The United States, Japan and South Korea have urged North Korea to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program. Washington and its top Asian allies also want China to do more to lure Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

Top negotiators from the United States, Japan and South Korea met in Seoul to discuss ways to lure North Korea back to talks on its nuclear weapons program.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea and Washington's senior delegate to the nuclear dispute, was optimistic after the meeting.

"It's a very good opportunity to discuss the way forward, especially how we can maximize the possibility that the six-party process will be successful."

Mr. Hill and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts urged North Korea to return to the six-nation disarmament talks without delay. China and Russia are the other two countries involved.

The negotiators were meeting for the first time since North Korea announced on February 10th that it was boycotting the talks indefinitely and that it possessed nuclear weapons.

But North Korean leader Kim Jong Il later told a special Chinese envoy that his country might return to the negotiating table under the right conditions. He did not say what those conditions might be.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon says the partners agreed during their meeting that North Korea should raise its concerns at the six-party talks, rather than setting conditions for resuming the negotiations.

Mr. Song urged China to do more to persuade North Korea to change its mind. China is North Korea's main ally and provides it with crucial energy and financial assistance.

The United States and the other parties in the talks want North Korea to end its efforts to build nuclear weapons and comply with its past pledges to remain nuclear free.

North Korea says U.S. hostility is the main obstacle to ending its nuclear programs. U.S. President George W. Bush says he has no intention of attacking the North and wants to solve the problem through diplomacy and the six-party talks.