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Russia Offers Help on Korea Talks

June 19, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Vladimir Putin spoke Monday with his South Korean counterpart Kim Dae-jung and offered Russia’s help in peace talks between North and South Korea, the Kremlin press service said.

Putin, who is finding his footing in the international arena after being elected March 26, has suggested Moscow might play a mediating role between the two Koreas, in a conflict Moscow once stoked during the Cold War.

On Monday, Putin congratulated Kim for a successful summit meeting last week, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to steps toward reconciliation after a 50-year standoff.

Putin ``underscored Russia’s determination to do all it can to create the external conditions to guarantee the agreements between the North and South,″ the press service statement said.

Moscow, after decades of supporting the Communist North, recognized South Korea in 1990. In 1995, Russia backed out of a defense agreement with the North.

Putin has said he will pay a visit to North Korea in the near future, but the Kremlin has not released an exact date.

Also Monday, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon met with Russian foreign ministry officials in Moscow.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Clinton administration on Monday formally implemented steps to ease half-century-old economic sanctions against North Korea.

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