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U.S. WIll Discuss Missile Program with North Korea

By R. Jeffrey Smith
The Washington Post

Senior U.S. and North Korean officials are scheduled to meet in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday to discuss long-standing U.S. concerns about North Korea's ballistic missile program, including its exports of medium-range missiles to the Middle East, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The talks are the opening stage of what the officials say could become formal U.S. negotiations with the communist regime aimed at shutting down the North Korean missile program, possibly in exchange for an eventual loosening of U.S. restrictions on trade and investment in North Korea.

The missile discussion is scheduled to take place four days after the United States and South Korea proposed joint negotiations with North Korea and China on a formal treaty to end the 1950-1953 Korean War and related measures to reduce military tensions on the Korean peninsula. In a statement that surprised some U.S. officials, North Korea indicated Thursday that it did not plan to reject the talks outright.

Washington considers North Korea's steadily improving missile arsenal one of its top security concerns because of the country's proximity to South Korea and Japan and its history of selling Scud-B rockets and other arms to Iran and Syria. The Scud-B and three, longer-range missiles now under development are capable of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological warheads.