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South Korean official says nuclear envoys of two Koreas will meet in Beijing next week
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) ' The nuclear envoys of North and South Korea plan to meet for talks in Beijing next week, a senior South Korean official said Friday in the latest sign of diplomatic wrangling aimed at restarting long-stalled nuclear negotiations.
Seoul will send Wi Sung-lac to meet with North Korea's Ri Yong Ho, the South Korean Foreign Ministry official said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the matter.
The envoys to the stalled international nuclear disarmament talks held a surprise meeting in July on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Indonesia. That meeting prompted hopes that talks that haven't happened since December 2008 could restart soon, but there has been little progress since.
The South Korean official would only say the meeting would take place "in the middle of next week." He said the agenda has not been set yet, though the meeting will be a chance for North Korea to "reaffirm its determination" to dismantle its nuclear arms programs.
Washington and Seoul have been wary of the North's repeated calls for new six-party nuclear talks, calling first for an improvement in dismal ties between the Koreas and for a sincere sign from the North that it will abide by past commitments it has made in previous rounds of the nuclear talks.
There has also been worry about North Korea's recently revealed uranium enrichment program, which could give it another way to make atomic bombs.
The North promised to freeze its long-range missile tests in 1999, but has since routinely tested short-range missiles and it launched a long-range rocket in April 2009. It has also conducted two nuclear tests, most recently in 2009, and last year it shelled a South Korean front-line island, killing four, and allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46.