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Korea Talks Wind Up

March 20, 1998

GENEVA (AP) _ Negotiators from North and South Korea met with U.S. and Chinese delegates today to try to salvage a week of laying groundwork for a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.

``We have to reach agreement this morning,″ Chen Jian, China’s assistant foreign minister and chairman of this round of talks, said before today’s meetings began. ``I’ll keep my fingers crossed.″

Four days of talks have so far failed to complete an accord on procedures for further discussions. Chen said he hoped the four sides would agree to set up a single subcommittee to work on issues and report back to the full four-party talks.

The two Koreas, China and the United States are trying to set the stage for discussions on a treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

One stumbling block is the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. The North has insisted that their withdrawal be on the agenda, while South Korea and the United States say that would be premature.

``There are difficulties on both sides,″ said Chen. ``We’re trying to find a way which will take into account the preoccupations and concerns of all sides.″

During an excursion to the Swiss Alps by negotiators on Thursday, South Korea’s deputy negotiator Yoo Myong-hwan described the tenor of the talks as ``good, very good.″

``We exchanged our views without trying to agree on anything,″ he said. Early on, negotiators were discussing ``confidence-building measures″ and planned to move onto ``forces structure″ in the final stage of this week’s meetings, he said.

The talks began Monday, picking up where a two-day initial session in December left off.

The hope is that North and South Korea will grow more comfortable with one another, thus reducing the risk of a military flare-up, although the process of reconciliation is expected to take years.

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