N. Korea Reasserts Pledge to Denuclearize

Associated Press
Friday, March 2, 2007

SEOUL, March 2 -- North Korea's No. 2 leader reiterated Thursday his country's pledge to abandon its nuclear weapons, as the impoverished nation sought a resumption of aid in its first high-level talks with South Korea since conducting an atomic test.

Kim Yong Nam said denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was "the dying wish" of the country's founding president, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. North Korea "will make efforts to realize it," he told South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae Joung in Pyongyang, the North's capital.

Lee pressed North Korea to follow up on its breakthrough Feb. 13 agreement with the United States and four other countries to shut its sole operating reactor in 60 days and eventually dismantle all its nuclear programs.

Kim Yong Nam also called for the two Koreas to work together to reunify the peninsula, which remains officially at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

As talks resumed Friday, the two sides agreed to go on with reunions of families divided by the border. A South Korean official said on condition of anonymity that reunions over a video link would be held this month, with face-to-face meetings set for May.

The North had been expected to agree to restarting the reunions, which it halted last year after it conducted missile tests that led the South to suspend aid.

South Korea has been one of the North's main aid sources since leaders of the two nations held their first and only summit in 2000. This week marks the 20th cabinet-level talks since then.

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