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Renewed Effort For Korea Talks

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Thursday that Seoul has informed North Korea of a South Korean-U.S. joint approach aimed at jump-starting the stalled talks on the North's nuclear weapons program, but that Pyongyang hasn't yet responded.

At a Washington summit earlier this month, Roh and President Bush agreed to formulate a "joint comprehensive approach" aimed at bringing the recalcitrant North back to the so-called six-party talks that also involve China, Russia and Japan.

Roh told MBC television in a program to be aired later Thursday that Seoul delivered the proposal to Pyongyang before his trip to Washington but there has been no response yet from the North. A transcript of the comments was provided by Roh's office.

Roh declined to give any details of what was contained in the proposal. Seoul's top nuclear envoy returned Thursday from a stay in Washington where the proposal was discussed, and was to meet Friday in Seoul with China's main envoy to the nuclear talks.

Despite the lack of a response, Roh argued it was hopeful that the North didn't immediately reject the overture.

"We continue to proceed with this proposal without giving it up," he said. "We still see a possibility in this and we continue to proceed because it is not necessarily negative that no response has been rendered."

Recent media reports have said the North was possibly moving toward testing a nuclear bomb to prove it has such weapons as it claims. Roh said Thursday it would be inappropriate to make a prediction on whether Pyongyang might take such a step, but that Seoul would "prepare for all possibilities."

Meanwhile, the border between the two Koreas, which has more military hardware and manpower along it than any other in the world, may be in store for a change, from manpower, to machine-power.

South Korea on Thursday unveiled an armed guard robot that it says can be used to detect and suppress intruders along the militarized border.

The Commerce Ministry said the robot, which can fire a machine gun or rubber bullets and sound an alarm when it detects suspicious movement, could dramatically improve surveillance capability.

The robot also can distinguish people from moving objects such as a vehicles from up to two kilometers (1.2 miles) away in the daytime, and half that distance at night, the ministry said in a news release.

It can identify an enemy up to 10 yards away through a password, the news release said.

Commerce Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the robot opens a new era because it could replace soldiers in front-line units guarding against any possible aggression from the North.

South Korea's army has also said it would start this month developing military robots, which can carry out operations ranging from patrolling and removing land mines to full combat.

Last month, the Defense Ministry said robots — along with sensor-activated alarm systems and closed-circuit TV cameras — could be installed along the 155-mile border with the North.

Stone-faced soldiers on both sides have guarded that border, with U.S. forces providing back-up on the South, since fighting in the Korean war ended in 1953.

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