US, North Korea Meet in Beijing on Nuclear Issues

Posted February 23rd, 2012 at 6:20 am (UTC-5)
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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. He said the teams had covered a “number of issues” but declined to go into detail about any sticking points.

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. The negotiating teams met 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 on the way into the morning session that he was looking forward to the talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan.

“Today is, as we say, 'Game Day.' We will have an opportunity to meet with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim and his team.”

Davies said 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.

“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?”

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.