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Monday, September 29, 2008

S. Korean leader arrives in Russia for nuclear, gas talks

South Korea's president arrived in Moscow on Sunday for a three-day visit expected to focus on the international standoff over North Korea's nuclear programme and energy ties.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport at 1:30 pm (0930 GMT).

Lee is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday, news agencies reported earlier, citing the South Korean embassy in Moscow.

His visit comes days after the UN's atomic energy watchdog said Pyongyang was about to restart a nuclear reprocessing plant and Seoul's foreign minister warned that six-party talks aimed at disarming North Korea were near breakdown.

"The future of the six-party talks will be discussed" at Lee's meetings with Russian officials, ambassador Lee Kyu-Hyung was quoted as saying in Moscow.

Lee also hopes to discuss building a gas pipeline linking Russia to South Korea, the ambassador said.

A pipeline delivering Russian gas to South Korea would have to pass through the communist North, which tested an atomic weapon in 2006.

Encouraged by the international community, Pyongyang began disabling its Yongbyon reactor last November, but halted work last month to protest a US refusal to drop it from a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that North Korea had told the agency that it would restart nuclear reprocessing at Yongbyon, which is used to make weapons-grade material.

Russia -- along with South Korea, the United States, China and Japan -- is one of the five countries negotiating with Pyongyang to achieve nuclear disarmament in exchange for economic aid.

(Source: AFP)

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