South Korea's foreign minister urges North Korea to halt its nuclear activities

South Korea's foreign minister on Wednesday urged North Korea to halt its nuclear activities and honor its promise to disarm, denouncing the communist nation for saying it would build up its nuclear facilities. North Korea said Tuesday it would bolster its "peaceful nuclear activities" to meet energy demands after the U.S. decided to scrap a project to provide it with power-generating reactors amid the latest standoff over the North's weapons program.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon criticized the North for the announcement, saying Wednesday that it runs counter to a September agreement where Pyongyang promised to give up its nuclear ambitions in exchange for aid and security assurances.

"In accordance with the spirit of the Sept. 19 declaration, North Korea should stop its nuclear activities and sincerely implement steps to scrap nuclear weapons and programs for the sake of realizing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," Ban said at a news briefing. The statement Tuesday from the North's Korean Central News Agency, the totalitarian regime's official mouthpiece, indicated that Pyongyang would speed up construction of two incomplete nuclear reactors of a type that can also be used for making weapons.

North Korea had mothballed its nuclear facilities under a 1994 deal with Washington to receive light-water nuclear reactors, considered to be more difficult to divert for military purposes. But the country restarted the facilities after the outbreak of the latest nuclear crisis in late 2002, when U.S. officials accused North Korea of violating the agreement by embarking on a secret uranium enrichment program.

Washington decided recently to terminate the light-water reactor project after putting it on hold for two years amid the nuclear standoff. North Korea has protested the decision and demanded compensation.

Since 2003, the United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan and China have sought in disarmament talks to persuade Pyongyang to disarm in exchange for diplomatic recognition and aid.

In September, the North agreed in principle to do so. But implementation of the accord has stalled since Pyongyang threatened to boycott the six-nation talks in protest over financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. to stem alleged illegal activities by North Korea, including counterfeiting and money laundering.

South Korea's Ban said Wednesday the North shouldn't to link the sanctions issue to the nuclear problem.

"As this is a matter of implementing law against illegal activities, it is separate from the six-party talks and they should not be linked," Ban said. "Our government will continue efforts to reconvene the six-party talks in January,” reports the AP. I.L.

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