US, North Korea Negotiatiors Set to Begin Talks in Beijing

Posted February 22nd, 2012 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Senior negotiators from the United States and North Korea are due to meet in Beijing Thursday for talks that are widely hoped will lead to the resumption of six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its controversial nuclear arms program.

U.S. negotiator Glyn Davies told a news conference in Beijing Wednesday that North Korea's agreement to attend the meeting is a positive sign. Davies said that after several bilateral meetings in the past year, he wants to see what the new North Korean leadership, under Kim Jong Un, is prepared to do.

“Are they prepared to pick up where we left off from the New York meeting in July, the Geneva meeting in October? Can we move forward on that basis? Can we find a way forward, in particular on the issue of denuclearization?”

Davies added that Washington is also concerned about non-proliferation, human rights and humanitarian issues.

When asked about his expectations, North Korea's main negotiator, First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, told journalists “to wait and see.”

The six-party talks began in 2003 but have been stalled for more than two years, after North Korea expelled international nuclear inspectors. In addition to the United States and North Korea, the talks include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In December, the United States and North Korea had been discussing the possibility of sending American food aid to help starving North Koreans. In return, Pyongyang was to suspend its uranium enrichment program. But the talks were interrupted by the death of leader Kim Jong Il and the United States has made no final food aid decision.

Another goal of Thursday's meeting is to see a resumption of the six-party talks. 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 indeed prepared to take steps to reassure all of us, in particular the United States, since I represent the United States, that they are sincere in getting back to fulfilling the obligations that they themselves made.”

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.