South Korea and the United States will meet again in April for negotiations on renewing a bilateral nuclear energy pact, the foreign ministry said Wednesday after the allies closed their two-day talks on the accord without progress.
Seoul and Washington kicked off their ninth round of talks on the renewal of the accord, also known as the "123 agreement," on Tuesday in South Korea's central city of Daejeon, home to major nuclear research facilities.
"The two sides agreed in the latest talks that their cooperation in key nuclear energy issues, including exporting nuclear plants and the management of spent fuel, is vital in promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy in both nations and strengthening the international nonproliferation system," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement after wrapping up the second day of the negotiations.
The countries also agreed to hold another round of talks in April, the ministry said, adding that it will keep making efforts toward progress.
Since late 2010, the allies have been negotiating to renew the pact written in 1974, under which Seoul is banned from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel because of proliferation risks.
Seoul has been seeking to lift those bans in order to increase the country's exports of nuclear plants and secure enough nuclear energy.
"We partly had progress during Tuesday's talks but still have a long way to go, as we are dealing with a lot of issues spanning from export competitiveness (in the commercial nuclear sector) as well as the management of spent nuclear fuel and the stable supply of fuel to nuclear plants," a Seoul government official said Wednesday morning. The two sides still remain divided over the key issues, the official added.
Washington has been reluctant to permit enrichment and reprocessing, saying these may lead to nuclear proliferation especially amid increasing threats posed by North Korea's possession of nuclear arms.
The nuclear accord was due to expire this March, but the allies earlier agreed to extend it by two years to buy time for enough negotiations. (Yonhap)