North Korea Arms Talks May Resume Next Month

From a Times Staff Writer

Another round of six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis is likely to be held in mid-December in Beijing, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

An official in Seoul who did not want to be identified said that there was an agreement in principle to resume the talks but that a date had not been set.

The last round took place in August and ended in disappointment, with the U.S. and North Korea unable to come up with any mechanism to proceed.

The other parties to the talks -- China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- want the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear weapons program and want the United States to offer in return a guarantee that it will not attack the communist country.

President Bush said last month that he would be willing to give North Korea some sort of security assurance short of a formal nonaggression treaty.

The North Koreans have since issued conflicting statements about whether they would return to the negotiating table.

Last week, an international consortium in New York agreed to suspend construction of a light-water reactor in North Korea, in effect killing a 1994 accord under which the North Koreans were to receive energy assistance in exchange for freezing their nuclear efforts.

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