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South Korea Presents Plan to End North Korea Nuclear Standoff

While details of the “road map” were not released, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that proposal includes a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid and improved relations with the U.S.

The new plan comes as South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan and U.S. ambassador Thomas Hubbard held meetings in Seoul to discuss the possibility of diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, an official at South Korea’s North American Affairs Department told Reuters.

In a statement Saturday, North Korea appeared to drop its demand for one-on-one talks with the United States to end the face-off.

North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman Saturday as saying the North would consider U.S. demands for multilateral talks to discuss the communist country’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

“If the U.S. is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue, the DPRK [North Korea] will not stick to any particular dialogue format. The solution to the issue depends on what is the real intention of the U.S.,” KCNA reported.

Over the past few weeks, North Korea has repeatedly accused the U.S. of planning to invade them after military activity in Iraq draws to a close.

As recently as Friday, North Korea vowed not to give up its nuclear programs. Pyongyang’s state-run Central TV said that submitting to U.N. inspections would be akin to “taking off our pants.” The government also said the inspections would be used to justify an American invasion.

On Monday, South Korea President Roh Moo-Hyum also said the progress toward multilateral talks was positive.

“When the North comes out as a responsible member of the international community, we and the international community will not hold back on all necessary assistance,” the president said.

In Washington Sunday, President Bush said North Korea’s willingness to participate in multilateral talks was a positive step in defusing the nuclear stalemate.

“That’s very good news for the people in the Far East who are concerned about North Korea and their willingness to develop nuclear weapons,” the president said.

According to Yonhap, South Korean national security adviser Ra Jong-yil believes the U.S.-led war in Iraq may have caused North Korea’s new willingness to engage in multilateral talks.

“It seems that North Korea is becoming a bit more flexible, including in the way it communicates,” Ra said, saying this may be a result of the North’s “disadvantageous international position.”

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