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South Korea, U.S. Suspend Negotiations on New Civilian Atomic Pact

The United States and South Korea have suspended for the rest of the year delicate bilateral talks for a new civilian atomic trade agreement, an anonymous source told the Yonhap News Agency on Thursday.

The longtime allies for some months have held negotiations for a new atomic accord that would replace the existing one, which is set to sunset in 2014. Seoul has pushed to be allowed to conduct more nuclear activities under the replacement deal, including pyroprocessing, an experimental plutonium reprocessing technology that recycles spent atomic fuel.

Advocates of pyroprocessing argue it is more proliferation-resistant than traditional reprocessing as it leaves separated plutonium mixed in with other nuclear materials. Critics, however, are concerned that granting the South reprocessing rights would send a bad signal to international efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons-related technology.

"Actual talks are deemed difficult this year," the informed source said. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, whose administration is winding to a close, "has decided to pass negotiations to the next administration," according to the source.

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