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South Korea's president-elect will dispatch envoys to the U.S., Japan, China
South Korea's president-elect will dispatch envoys to the U.S., Japan, China and Russia next month in an effort to achieve a breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear issue, a presidential aide said on Monday.

"Lee Myung-bak has decided to convey his wish to visit the four countries soon after his February 25 inauguration through envoys," the aide said as quoted by Yonhap news agency. "The exact dates have yet to be determined, but we expect the visits to take place sometime next month."

Lee will send personal letters to the leaders of the four nations via the envoys, requesting early summits to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions and other issues of mutual concern, the South Korean agency said.

Under a February deal made with China, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan, North Korea is to decommission all of its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and submit a complete list of its nuclear programs by the end of the year. Pyongyang was promised economic and diplomatic incentives in return.

But the Communist state is likely to miss the deadline as removing fuel rods from the reactor could take several months.

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have expressed their disappointment over the delay, whereas a senior Russian diplomat said on Thursday Moscow was not surprised that Pyongyang will be unable to scrap all its nuclear facilities by the end of the year.

"The decommissioning of nuclear installations is a very complex technical process, and specialists give different assessments on that score," Alexander Losyukov said, adding it could take several months if not a year to complete the process.

Former Seoul mayor and CEO of auto giant Hyundai Lee Myung-bak won a landslide victory at the December 19 polls. He received strong public support for his economic plans, despite a criminal probe into alleged stock manipulation.


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