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SEOUL — U.S. success in ridding Iraq of its dictator, and its determination to find and remove any of that nation’s weapons of mass destruction, may have prompted North Korea to agree this week to a U.S. proposal for talks, a congressman visiting Seoul said Wednesday.

“It’s important that North Korea recognizes the resolve on the part of the United States with respect to engaging weapons of mass destruction,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., in Seoul with three other House members for a six-day visit. “The successful conclusion of the Iraq war drives that point home.”

On Wednesday, North Korea agreed to talks April 23 in Beijing with the United States and China. The agreement was short of both the Bush administration’s goal to include Russia, Japan and South Korea, and North Korea’s quest for one-on-one talks with Washington.

Royce said he and Reps. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.; Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, D-Guam, met for about an hour Wednesday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. They discussed trade, security and human rights issues.

The United States and South Korea agree that talks with North Korea should be multilateral, Royce said.

Royce is on the House International Relations Committee’s Asia and Pacific subcommittee. In his district, which includes parts of Orange County south of Los Angeles, 40,000 of about 650,000 people are of Korean heritage.

North Korea depends heavily on China, but that nation recently cut off gas supplies to the North for about three days, Royce said. “We believe that China is not enamored with the North Koreans’ attempts to go forward with a nuclear program,” he said.

While in Seoul, the House members joined a conference call with North Korean defectors. It was part of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights, which also involved representatives from Mongolia, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

The coalition wants the United Nations to give North Korean refugees official U.N. refugee status. Royce said the group agreed to try to persuade Chinese officials to allow placement there of a U.N. refugee official.


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