NKorea, US negotiators begin nuclear talks in Geneva

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North Korean and US negotiators on Monday began direct talks aimed at reviving long-stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations.

The US team led by outgoing special representative Stephen Bosworth, as well as his replacement Glyn Davies arrived shortly before 8.30 am (0630 GMT) at the US embassy where the meeting was to begin at 10:00 am.

North Korea's delegation led by first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan arrived just minutes before talks were due to start.

While analysts expect no breakthrough during the two-day meeting, they see engagement between the two parties as a positive development and 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 multi-nation talks without pre-conditions, would not make a concession at the Geneva meeting.

Nevertheless, on the eve of the meeting, China's vice premier Li Keqiang visted Pyongyang, saying that his visit will help promote resumption of the negotiations, according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency after his arrival.

China has hosted the forum, which includes the two Koreas, Russia, the United States and Japan, since 2003.

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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