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South Korea Presses North To Return to Nuclear Talks In July

South Korea is pressing North Korea to return to stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program by next month.

The two sides discussed the issue during cabinet-level talks that got under way in Seoul today (Wednesday).

A South Korean spokesman quoted the North as saying it would reject nuclear weapons if the United States treats it in a friendly manner. The comment echoes a recent statement by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Meanwhile, two American experts on Korea say the Bush administration rejected a direct appeal from Mr. Kim in late 2002 to resolve the nuclear weapons crisis.

Writing in today's Washington Post, Donald Gregg (a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea) and Don Oberdorfer (a former Post diplomatic correspondent) say they were visiting Pyongyang when they were given a personal message from Mr. Kim to President Bush. They say Mr. Kim offered in that message to resolve the nuclear issue if the United States recognized North Korea's sovereignty and agreed to a non-aggression pact.

The two say they gave Mr. Kim's message to senior White House and State Department officials, but that the administration rejected the offer.