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N. Korea repeats call for 'unconditional' resumption of six-party talks

BEIJING, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's top nuclear envoy on Monday called for resuming the stalled six-party disarmament talks on its nuclear weapons programs without preconditions, reiterating a stance that dims prospects of reviving the multilateral dialogue.

Ri Yong-ho repeated the call at a closed-door forum in Beijing, according to a forum attendee, two days before he is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac in Beijing.

Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang must halt all nuclear activities and allow U.N. inspectors to monitor the suspension before further six-party talks can take place.

"Attaching pre-conditions ahead of a dialogue will hurt the trust and confidence in each other," Ri was quoted as saying by the source, who asked not to be named. "That's why we call for unconditionally resuming the six-party talks."

Ri said that he will persuade Wi to support the North's stance when the two envoys meet on Wednesday, the source said.

During the forum, Ri reportedly said that North Korea has proposed holding another round of meetings with the United States

following Wednesday's inter-Korean discussion.   

Wi and Ri met in Indonesia in late July for the first time in more than two years, setting the tone for renewed diplomatic efforts to reopen the stalled talks, which also involve the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Since then, Seoul and Washington have engaged in preliminary discussions with Pyongyang to gauge the possibility of restarting the talks that have been dormant since late 2008.

Efforts to reopen the multilateral forum, aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programs in return for economic aid, have been complicated by the North's nuclear and missile tests and military attacks on South Korea last year.

North Korea has a track record of using provocation and dialogue with South Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers to try to wrest concessions before backtracking on agreements and abandoning talks. After sharply raising tension in the area last year, in recent months the North has expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-nation talks.

In November last year, North Korea also revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility, adding urgency to international efforts to check Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development.

The North claims the uranium enrichment program is for the development of peaceful energy, but outside experts believe it will give the country a new source of fission material to make atomic bombs, in addition to its widely known plutonium-based weapons program.

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