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Should US hold bilateral talks with N. Korea?

A Chinese delegation visited Kim Jong-il this week to press for reengagement on the North's nuclear program. The US, which has said it's open to talks, must deal with a deeply suspicious S. Korean leadership.

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The United States faces conflicting pressures over whether to engage in bilateral dialogue with North Korea that South Korea's leaders fear will lead to recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il was quoted Friday by China's Xinhua news agency as saying he was open to "bilateral and multilateral talks" to resolve "relevant issues." Mr. Kim reportedly made the remarks after meeting with a Chinese envoy.

The interest of the US in engaging in bilateral dialogue with North Korea in hopes of getting the North to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program has become a matter of intense debate between Washington and Seoul, which has charged that the North is using nuclear weapons as "a tool" for "communist unification" of all Korea.

The United States has said it's ready for bilateral talks, but the State Department says it has not yet responded to North Korea's invitation for US special envoy Stephen Bosworth to go to Pyongyang.

Mr. Bosworth, recently in Seoul, is believed to have conveyed the deep doubts of South Korea's conservative president, Lee Myung-bak, who has said North Korea must completely "denuclearize" as a prelude to any new agreement.


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