N. Korea Diplomat: 1st Day of Talks with US ‘Constructive’

Posted July 28th, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A top North Korean diplomat is calling the first day of new talks with the United States “constructive and interesting.”

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, the head of a North Korean delegation, said the two sides exchanged views Thursday on general issues and called the atmosphere good.

Special envoy Stephen Bosworth is leading the U.S. delegation to the talks at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York. It is the first face-to-face senior-level meeting between the United States and North Korea in 18 months.

The U.S. State Department calls the talks “serious and business-like” and says it looks forward to another session Friday. A spokesman says the talks are exploratory and aimed at sounding out North Korea to see if it is ready to live up to its commitment to give up its nuclear program.

A former U.S. negotiator on Korea, Mitchell Reiss, told the VOA Korean Service that he believes China has been putting pressure on the North to return to the talks. He said the talks will relieve the pressure from China without having to make any substantiative changes in its position.

The United States invited Kim and his delegation to New York following successful talks between the North and South Korean nuclear negotiators last week in Indonesia. Their meeting signaled a possible thaw after more than one year of high tension between the two countries

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have been trying to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons. The North pulled out of the talks in 2008 and tested a second nuclear weapon months later.

South Korea has also been demanding an apology from the North for the sinking of a warship by what international investigators say was a North Korean torpedo in March 2009. The North denies the charge.

The South also wants an apology for a deadly artillery attack in November on a border island, Yeonpyeong. North Korea claims the South provoked the attack.