Beijing, Washington move to revive NKorea nuclear talks

24th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Beijing and Washington attempted Monday to revive long-stalled nuclear negotiations to disarm North Korea, with the US meeting the North in Geneva for direct talks and China's vice-premier visiting Pyongyang.

The US team led by outgoing special representative Stephen Bosworth, and his replacement Glyn Davies sat down at the US mission with North Korea's delegation led by first vice minister Kim Kye-Gwan, for their second round of talks in three months.

The delegations "made initial presentations on our respective positions" during the morning session, said Clifford Hart, US special envoy for six-party talks, before breaking for lunch at 12.15 pm.

They reconvened in the afternoon, and were due to take another break before the US team hosts a dinner for the North Korean team back at the US mission, he added.

Separately, China's vice premier Li Keqiang travelled to Pyongyang, saying that his trip would help promote a resumption of the six-party negotiations, according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency after his arrival.

Li had "friendly" talks with Kim Yong-Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (parliament), according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The meeting was also attended by Vice Prime Minister Kang Sok-Ju and other North Korean officials, it said.

Li, widely expected to be China's next premier, said the friendship between North Korea and China was now developing "at a new higher stage", the agency said.

China, which is Pyongyang's closest ally and a major economic partner, has hosted the six-party forum since 2003, which includes the two Koreas, Russia, the United States and Japan.

However, analysts see no breakthrough for the six-party talks coming during the Geneva meeting. Rather, they see engagement between the two parties as a way to stop Pyongyang from making rash moves.

"The view is that while they are talking, they are not provoking -- it's jaw-jaw rather than war-war," Mark Fitzpatrick, who heads the non-proliferation programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told AFP.

"I don't think that people will say this is a disaster because there is nothing concrete in terms of results," he added.

Ahead of the meeting, a senior State Department official said "our concern is that if we don't engage, that could result in miscalculations by the North Koreans, as we have seen in the past."

"Sometimes when engagement has been broken off, it causes them to lash out in dangerous and unsettling ways," said the official.

However, the US stressed it would not return to long-stalled six-party talks unless the North made a "clear commitment ... on the denuclearization side."

Analysts believe that the North, which has insisted on the resumption of the six-way talks without pre-conditions, would not make a concession at the Geneva meeting.

In September 2005, the North agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons and programmes in return for security guarantees, energy aid and a peace pact formally ending the 1950-53 war and diplomatic ties with the United States.

In 2007 it shut its plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor. But during the following year the process began to melt down amid mutual accusations of bad faith.

In April 2009 Pyongyang walked out of the six-party forum, a month before staging its second atomic weapons test.

The North's deadly artillery attack last November on a South Korean island further complicated efforts to restart nuclear dialogue.

But a surprise meeting between nuclear envoys of South and North Korea on the sidelines of an Asian security conference in Bali, Indonesia led to the first round of direct US-North Korea talks in New York in July.

The second set of discussions are coming just as the two parties agreed to resume searches for the remains of Americans killed in the 1950-53 Korean War after a six-year hiatus, in a further sign of easing tensions between the two sides.

© 2011 AFP

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