US, NKorea nuclear talks take 'positive direction'

25th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States and North Korea are heading Tuesday into a second day of talks aimed at reviving long-stalled nuclear negotiations, with Washington saying they are moving in a positive direction.

After a day of "very intensive discussions", the head of the US delegation Stephen Bosworth said: "I think we are moving in a positive direction. We have narrowed some differences but we still have differences that we have to resolve."

The outgoing US special representative added there has been "some progress."

On Monday, Bosworth and his replacement Glyn Davies had met North Korea's delegation led by first vice minister Kim Kye-Gwan for their second round of talks in three months.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in Washington that the Geneva talks were going on in a "business-like atmosphere."

"We look forward, in this round, to hearing what they have taken from what we said in July and whether we are able to make progress now, particularly on the nuclear side," she said.

Separately, China's vice premier Li Keqiang travelled to Pyongyang, where he met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, state media said.

Kim told Li that Pyongyang "hopes the six-party talks about the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula should be restarted as soon as possible", China's official Xinhua news agency reported early Tuesday.

The "principle of simultaneous action" should apply, it quoted Kim as saying -- a reiteration of the North's stance that the negotiations should begin again without preconditions.

The North formally quit the six-party forum in April 2009, a month before staging its second atomic weapons test. It has since repeatedly said it wants to come back, but Washington is demanding a physical sign of sincerity first.

Li, widely expected to be China's next premier, said Beijing was "working for positive achievements, creating conditions for reopening the six-party talks at an early date", Xinhua 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.

Bosworth said the goal of the Geneva talks was "to find a solid foundation on which to launch a resumption of discussions both bilateral and multilateral, and we will continue to work hard to bring that about."

However, analysts warned ahead of the Geneva meeting that little breakthrough was expected as the North was unlikely to make a concession.

"Unless it is clear that denuclearization is a core part of the agenda and that North Korea indicates it is prepared to go down that road, there's really no point in convening a six-party meeting," said Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Any predictions related to six-party talks really become predictions about North Korean performance. Most people are rather pessimistic about the prospect that North Korea is going to perform up to the level of expectation needed," he said.

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 is 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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