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Reports: U.S.-N. Korea Talks Set

April 16, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States, North Korea and China will hold talks on North Korea’s nuclear program next week in Beijing, according to published reports.

Secretary of State Colin Powell stopped short of announcing talks Tuesday, but said ``a lot of pieces have come together″ in his quest for multilateral discussions on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. He indicated he was pursuing arrangements through diplomatic channels.

``I’m not prepared to announce anything today with respect to meetings, attendance levels, what is multilateral and how best to get started and at what level,″ Powell said at a news conference.

``The one thing that is absolutely clear, is that at whatever level it starts, and with whatever attendance, it has to ultimately encompass the views and thoughts of all the neighbors in the region.″

North Korea has recently signaled willingness to accept the U.S. approach after months of insisting on one-on-one talks with Washington.

Powell said the quick U.S. military success in Iraq may have influenced North Korea’s thinking on opening diplomatic discussions.

The New York Times first reported on next week’s meeting. The Washington Post subsequently cited unidentified U.S. and Japanese officials as saying there would be a meeting next week in China and the Kyodo news agency said it will be held on Wednesday.

State Department and White House officials did not return calls seeking comment late Tuesday.

At a minimum, Powell has wanted future talks to include the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia as well as the United States. Until now, the North Koreans had ruled out any talks except one-on-one meetings with the United States.

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On the Net:

State Department’s North Korea page: http://www.state.gov/p/eap/ci/kn/

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