South Korea says unofficial six-party nuclear talks unlikely

South Korea said Monday its push for an unofficial session of international nuclear disarmament talks on North Korea is unlikely to materialize amid growing tension between the United States and North Korea. Seoul sought in recent weeks to convene an informal meeting of negotiators from the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States for freer discussion aimed at breaking a deadlock in the stalled negotiations.

South Korea hoped to hold the meetings on its southern resort island of Jeju before the end of the year before the expected resumption of formal talks in January.

"Realistically, it appears to be difficult to hold a six-party meeting on Jeju," South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said. "I believe the six-party talks should resume before Lunar New Year," Ban said, according to South Korean pool reports. The New Year on lunar calendar falls on Jan. 29.

The minister made the comments before a summit between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of a regional conference in Kuala Lumpur. Foreign media were not allowed to directly cover the summit.

The latest round of the nuclear talks in Beijing took a recess last month. The participants agreed to meet again, but didn't set a date. The prospect of their resumption have been increasingly unclear because of growing tension between the two key players, the U.S. and the North, over Washington's financial sanctions against the communist state.

North Korea has demanded the U.S. lifts the sanctions, calling U.S. allegations of the North's involvement in weapons proliferation, money laundering and counterfeiting a "sheer lie." The U.S. rejected the demand and the North responded with a threat to boycott further nuclear talks, reports the AP. I.L.

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