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South Korea to send envoys to hasten nuclear talks

By RIA Novosti

Seoul : South Korea’s president-elect will dispatch envoys to the US, Japan, China and Russia next month in an effort to achieve a breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear issue, a presidential aide has said.

“Lee Myung-bak has decided to convey through envoys his wish to visit the four countries soon after his February 25 inauguration,” the aide said Monday. “The exact dates have yet to be determined, but we expect the visits to take place sometime next month.”

Former Seoul mayor and CEO of auto giant Hyundai Lee Myung-bak won a landslide victory at the Dec 19 polls and received strong public support for his economic plans.

Lee’s envoys will carry personal letters to the leaders of the four nations, requesting early summit meeting to discuss North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and other issues of mutual concerns, he said.

Under a February deal made with China, the US, South Korea, Russia and Japan, North Korea was to decommission all its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and submit a complete list of its nuclear programmes by the end of the year 2007. Pyongyang was promised economic and diplomatic incentives in return.

But North Korea missed the deadline as removing fuel rods from the reactor could take several months.

South Korea, the US and Japan have expressed their disappointment over the delay, whereas a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow was not surprised that Pyongyang would be unable to scrap all its nuclear facilities by the end of the year 2007.

“The decommissioning of nuclear installations is a very complex technical process, and specialists give different assessments on that score,” Alexander Losyukov said, adding it could take several months if not a year to complete the process.