'Date set' for fresh N Korea talks

South Korea says six-nation nuclear talks to resume in Beijing on July 18.

    Pyongyang says IAEA inspectors will be allowed in as soon as the first batch of fuel aid arrives [Reuters]

    The US on Monday said it preferred the six-party talks to resume after the Yongbyon plant, which includes the North's main plutonium-producing reactor, is shut down.
     
    "The talks are likely to take place on July 18-19, although the date has not been fixed yet," a South Korean foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP. "We are preparing to travel to Beijing around July 17."
     
    A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said she could not confirm the Yonhap report and had no further comment.
     
    Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's chief negotiator, said he has not been informed of the date yet.
     
    "Let's wait until China makes an announcement," he said.
     
    Military talks
     
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    News of the fresh six-party talks came as officials from North and South Korea resumed military discussions on a joint fishing area around their disputed maritime border and on security for joint economic projects nearby.
     
    The working-level talks in the border village of Panmunjom follow-up on high-level military negotiations between the two Koreas in May.
     
    But the talks could stall again, as happened last month, if Pyongyang continues to insist on re-drawing the sea border further south.
     
    The border dispute has been a constant source of potential conflict on the divided peninsula, as North Korea does not recognise the current sea border demarcated by the United Nations at the end of the Korean War.
     
    Inspectors
     
    On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed to send inspectors back to North Korea for the first time since 2002 to monitor the shutdown.
     
    The IAEA approval came 10 days after senior IAEA and North Korean officials agreed ground rules for verifying the closure of the Yonbyon plant.
     
    North Korea said it will begin shutting down the plans as soon as the first shipment of fuel oil arrives from South Korea.
     
    The shutdown of Yongbyon is the first step towards the disarmament of North Korea's nuclear programme as agreed among the six nuclear powers in February.
     
    Clearance for the IAEA inspection is expected once Pyongyang receives the shipment this week.
     
    The first shipment out of a total 50,000 tonnes of oil, promised in compensation for the shutdown, will leave the South Korean port of Ulsan on Thursday and is expected to arrive in Sonbong in North Korea on Saturday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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