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S.Korea, US, Japan to hold talks on N.Korea

South Korea, the United States and Japan will hold high-level talks next week about North Korea, Seoul's foreign ministry said on Thursday, amid speculation Pyongyang is planning a nuclear test.

Lim Sung-Nam, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama and the US special envoy on the North Glyn Davies will meet in Seoul on Monday, said ministry spokesman Cho Byung-Je.

"Through the high-level talks, the three countries will discuss developments on the Korean peninsula, North Korea and its nuclear issue following the April 13 long-range missile launch by the North," Cho said.

He said the three allies frequently held such talks, most recently in January.

Speculation is growing that the North will stage another nuclear test or a border clash after the failure of its much-hyped long-range rocket launch on April 13.

The North said its aim was only to put a peaceful satellite into orbit.

But the UN Security Council strongly condemned the exercise as breaching a ban on the testing of ballistic missile technology, and tightened sanctions.

The envoys are expected to assess the situation "and discuss the possibility of additional provocations from North Korea", Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified foreign ministry official as saying.

After the UN censured previous rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang responded with nuclear tests. Satellite photos show work under way at its test site but give no indication of whether or when a test will be staged.

The North in recent months has been intensifying threats against South Korea and insulting its conservative President Lee Myung-Bak in extreme terms.

It accuses his government of insulting behaviour during celebrations in Pyongyang last month to mark the centenary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

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