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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia: North Korea Ready for U.S. Talks

A Russian diplomat said Wednesday that North Korea was willing to reopen a dialogue with the United States to settle the crisis around its nuclear program.

However, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in Seoul that he was rounding up enough support for the UN nuclear watchdog agency to refer the North Korea crisis to the UN Security Council.

"The North Korean side is prepared for a dialogue with Washington, naturally taking into account the opinions of other countries including Russia, on the question of normalizing [the situation] on the Korean Peninsula," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

During his three-day visit to Pyongyang, Losyukov presented Russia's so-called "package" approach to solving the crisis, which consists of three parts: nuclear-free status for the Korean Peninsula, security guarantees for North Korea and a package of humanitarian and economic aid.

He said Tuesday that he would give President Vladimir Putin a rundown on the Pyongyang talks before revealing details.

Bolton said Wednesday that he hoped for a referral to the Security Council as early as the end of this week -- a move that would likely infuriate North Korea, which insists that the dispute over its nuclear development is purely with Washington and does not involve other parties.

The Security Council could consider leveling economic or political sanctions against North Korea, a move Pyongyang says would be tantamount to war.

Bolton said South Korean officials had agreed on taking the matter before the Security Council. "It's not a question of if it goes before the Security Council, it's only a matter of time," Bolton said. "We hope it will get there by the end of this week."

Bolton said the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors could pass its third resolution on the subject and refer the matter to the Security Council this week "if we see a consensus emerging."

Bolton said that aside from South Korea, France, Britain and most likely Russia would support such a move. In Beijing earlier this week, Bolton said China voiced no opposition.

However, Losyukov said Wednesday, "If you wish my personal opinion, this session of the Security Council would be a bit premature.

"We hoped there would be some contact with the American side and, of course, I am prepared to share my impressions," said Losyukov, who had originally planned to go on to Washington after his trip to Pyongyang.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said in Vienna that "no decision has yet been taken" on whether to refer the dispute to the Security Council, but that the agency's 35-nation board of governors was closely monitoring the situation.

The development came as the two Koreas opened high-level talks in Seoul on Wednesday that South Korean officials hoped would address tension over the North's nuclear program.

North Korean officials said that they have no intention of making nuclear weapons and repeated Pyongyang's position that the standoff can be resolved through dialogue with the United States, South Korean officials said.

South Korea's chief delegate, Jeong Se-hyun, demanded in a keynote speech that the North freeze its nuclear facilities and reverse its decision to quit the global nuclear nonproliferation treaty, Rhee told reporters.

The chief North Korean negotiator, Kim Ryong Song, accused the United States of aggravating the standoff by refusing to deal directly with his country, he said.

Rhee said South Korea will continue to raise the issue during the remainder of the talks, which continue through Friday.

Meanwhile, a North Korean energy official said a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at the center of the dispute will start generating electricity "within weeks," a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan reported Wednesday.

"We are currently hurrying the process," Vice Minister Shin Yong Sung of the North's Power and Coal Industries told Choson Shinbo, a daily published by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. (AP, Reuters)