Talks between the top nuclear negotiators from the U.S. and North Korea went into “overtime” Thursday after a day of what were described as “substantive and serious” discussions.
U.S. negotiator Glyn Davies told reporters in Beijing the sides were in “mid-negotiations” and had decided to have dinner together and then pick up the talks again on Friday.
“We are a little bit in overtime in our discussion with the North Koreans. In fact they haven't quite concluded and we intend to pick up where we left off this evening, tomorrow. This evening we will have an occasion to have dinner with the North Koreans and I think we will work out some of the details about tomorrow.”
He said the teams had covered a “number of issues” but declined to go into detail about any sticking points such as the issue of nuclear enrichment.
“I am not going to talk about sticking points that would not serve me as a negotiator to talk about where we might be stuck if we are and I am not going to admit that we are.”
This is the third round of meetings between the countries since July, but the first since North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, succeeded his father late last year. Davies and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, met with aides for more than two hours Thursday morning at North Korea's embassy and then resumed the talks in the afternoon at the U.S. Embassy.
Davies said earlier this week he was encouraged by Pyongyang's willingness to resume the dialogue and eager to see whether the change of leadership has affected the North's position.
In December, the United States and North Korea were discussing the possibility of sending American food aid to North Korea, where floods and a poor harvest last year have caused widespread hunger. Pyongyang was reported to be about to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment program when the talks were interrupted by the death of leader Kim Jong Il.
In recent months, Pyongyang has been pressing for a resumption of the six-party talks, which began in 2003 but have been stalled for more than two years.
But Davies said Washington is not interested in talk for talk's sake. He said the U.S. first needs to see signs that North Korea is sincere about fulfilling obligations it made during previous rounds.
China hosts the six-party talks, which include the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed hope that all parties will help maintain what he described as the “momentum of contact and dialogue.” He said the participants should strive to resolve differences through dialogue and restart the six-party talks as soon as possible.