N. Korea, U.S. begin talks on suspected nuclear site

They precede meetings aimed at formal peace

January 17, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GENEVA -- With tensions rising on the Korean peninsula, the United States and North Korea opened new talks here yesterday over whether North Korea would allow inspections of a suspected underground nuclear facility.

The talks, which are to continue today, precede a new round of four-way meetings planned here next week aimed at reaching a formal peace treaty for the peninsula, where war ended 46 years ago.

This would be the fourth such gathering in the past 13 months of North and South Korea and their chief allies, China and the United States.

In recent weeks North Korea has issued a series of unusually belligerent statements, threatening that the United States "will be reduced to ashes and will no longer exist if they ignite the train of war."

The talks follow a visit to South Korea by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, who agreed Friday with his South Korean counterpart to strengthen their military alliance to counter "a wide range of possible threats" from North Korea. Among the security concerns are the suspected underground nuclear site and the North's missile capabilities.

In August, the North launched a three-stage rocket over Japan, catching U.S. intelligence agencies by surprise.

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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