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N. Korea May Allow Inspections

March 3, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ U.S. and North Korean officials tried to hammer out a deal Wednesday that would allow inspections of a secret underground construction site Washington fears may be a nuclear weapons project.

As the talks began their fourth day Wednesday, a Japanese news agency reported that the North had told the United States it plans to allow inspections without conditions about the number of visits.

But the two sides still have not agreed how much additional food aid would be given to North Korea in exchange for the inspections, Kyodo News quoted unidentified negotiation sources as saying. The United States has offered to provide 500,000 tons of additional food aid, while North Korea is demanding 1 million tons, the sources said.

The U.S. State Department has refused to give details of the substance of talks, which will continue Thursday.

The United States has been demanding unconditional access to the site and has rejected a North Korean demand for $300 million as the price for access.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan said Wednesday the goal of the negotiations at Washington’s U.N. mission here was to ``clarify the suspicions of the site, what should be done by the two sides.″

The U.S. delegate said Tuesday he was still hopeful the two sides could come to an agreement. ``I’m always optimistic,″ Charles Kartman said.

North Korea has denied the Kumchang-ni site is being used to produce nuclear weapons. The Clinton administration says such weapons are banned under a 1994 U.S.-North Korean agreement.

Update hourly