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Wednesday December 10 6:13 AM EST

Korea talks to resume in March: report

By JASON NEELY

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (UPI) _ South Korea's Yonhap News Agency has reported negotiators from the two Koreas, China and the United States are set to announce Korean peace talks will resume in March.

Yonhap, citing an unnamed member of South Korea's delegation, said an accord to resume the talks would be announced Wednesday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth.

 A spokesman for South Korea's foreign ministry could not confirm the report for United Press International.

Negotiations over a peace pact to end a tense 44-year ceasefire between the two Koreas are under way in Geneva this week, 19 months after they were proposed by U.S. President Bill Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam (``KEEM Yahng-sahm'').  

Offered after North Korea threatened to abandon rules governing the Demilitarized Zone separating the Koreas, the talks follow several rounds of preliminary meetings in which the North demanded participants address the issue of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Pyongyang has long called for the removal of 37,500 U.S. troops who help defend the southern side of the DMZ.

The four parties in the peace talks were combatants in the three-year Korean War, which was halted in 1953 by an armistice signed by North Korea, China and the United States representing United Nations forces that defended the South.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tang Guoqiang (``Tang Kwo-c cheenag'') said today China hopes the talks provide ``equal footing to seek common ground while putting aside differences.''

Tang warned that ``gradual progress'' is the only way to guarantee success.

U.S. officials have said a consensus on signing a peace pact in this first round of Geneva talks is unlikely.

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