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South Korea, Japan Welcome North Korea Nuclear Freeze Offer - 2004-01-07


Japan and South Korea say North Korea's latest offer to freeze its nuclear programs could pave the way for more talks on ending the nuclear crisis.

Japan and South Korea Wednesday were optimistic Pyongyang's latest offer to halt its nuclear programs shows it is interested in restarting multilateral negotiations.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda says it is good to spell out an idea to move forward.

But he says North Korea should be watched closely.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang repeated an offer it made in December: it would freeze nuclear activities and return to talks, in exchange for U.S. aid, security guarantees and being dropped from a U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring nations.

Washington had rejected the offer the first time, saying no concessions until North Korea permanently dismantles its nuclear programs.

But this time, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the offer "positive," which could yield results at the next round of talks.

North Korea has yet to agree to a date for a second round of talks in Beijing with diplomats from China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States.

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