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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Koreas Resume Two-Party Talks

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea told North Korea it has spiked regional tensions by taking a key step in preparing ingredients for nuclear bombs and tried to coax it back into disarmament negotiations, as the two sides met Monday for their first reconciliation talks in 10 months.

Seoul promised a new "substantial proposal" if the North returned to the six-nation talks, but declined to elaborate on the proposal.

Meanwhile, the U.S. national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, warned of unspecified action against North Korea if it carried out a nuclear test -- a position echoed by Japan.

"We've seen some evidence that says that they may be preparing for a nuclear test," Hadley said Sunday in an interview with CNN, adding that such a test would defy regional powers and that "action would ... have to be taken."

North Korea ratcheted up the nuclear standoff last week by saying it would strengthen its nuclear arsenal and that it had removed spent fuel rods from a reactor -- seen as a step toward extracting weapons-grade plutonium. That raised concerns about a possible nuclear test.

A South Korean delegation commuted Monday to the two-day talks in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. The first day wrapped up after six hours.

Pool reports from journalists covering the meeting said that the South told the North it had aggravated tensions by removing the fuel rods and urged the North to return to the negotiating table with the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to resolve the nuclear issue.

The Kaesong meeting coincides with other efforts to resume the six-party talks, with Washington's top envoy in that dispute, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, meeting Monday with his South Korean counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon.

Talks between the two Koreas broke off last July after mass defections to South Korea from the North that Pyongyang labeled kidnappings. The renewed talks are "vital" to regenerating those ties, said North Korea's chief delegate, Kim Man Gil.

The South proposed resuming Cabinet-level discussions in June, arranging more reunions in August for families separated for more than half a century, conducting a trial run of cross-border railways and sending a delegation next month to the North's capital to join a celebration marking the fifth anniversary of a historic inter-Korean summit accord.

North Korea requested fertilizer aid from the South out of "humanitarian concern," and also raised the prospect of food aid.

However, the size of such aid needs further consultations, Rhee said. U.S. officials said last week that spy satellites looking at the North's northeastern Kilju saw the digging of a tunnel and the construction of a reviewing stand -- possible indications of an upcoming test.

But Song on Monday downplayed the prospects of a nuclear test, saying in an interview with South Korea's Yonhap news agency that the reports "have no specific evidence to back them up."