Beijing (AFP) Nov 08, 2005
North Korea will be urged to adopt a step-by-step plan towards nuclear disarmament when the latest round of six-nation talks begins Wednesday, Japan's chief negotiator said.
However, with the first phase of the fifth round scheduled to last just three days before resuming later in the year, expectations were low that major progress will be made this week.
"The main thing is to see how we take an agreement of principles and begin to see how the agreement of principles can be put into practice," said top US envoy Christopher Hill when he arrived in Beijing late Tuesday.
Hill stressed that much depended on Pyongyang's willingness to abide by the joint agreement reached during the last round of talks in September in which North Korea promised to scrap its nuclear programs in exchange for energy assistance and other benefits.
"We need to see specifically how the undertakings of the DPRK (North Korea), in terms of denuclearization, are going to unfold," Hill said.
Progress would be "rather difficult" because large differences remain over how to implement the agreement, said Chinese vice foreign minister Wu Dawei.
China, the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan agreed in September to verifiably scrap North Korea's nuclear programs in exchange for energy assistance and other benefits.
However, the United States has insisted that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program immediately, while the Stalinist state has been holding out for benefits from Washington up front before surrendering its bargaining chip.
In particular, North Korea said after the September agreement that it would not dismantle its nuclear arsenal before the United States supplied it with a light-water atomic reactor to generate electricity.
The United States says North Korea must first disarm.
Japan's chief negotiator, Kenichiro Sasae, said North Korea would be urged to adopt a phased approach to dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
Sasae did not give details, but the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said Japan, the United States and South Korea would propose to the North a "road map" under which it would give up its nuclear weapons in return for promised benefits.
The Asahi Shimbun, citing South Korean diplomatic sources, said the road map would include a timeline for Pyongyang to verify the abandonment of its nuclear program.
Pyongyang would also eventually need to return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accept inspections by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.
The United States and Japan accuse North Korea of violating a 1994 agreement under which a US-led consortium would have built two light water reactors in the impoverished state in return for nuclear disarmament.
The United States accused the North in 2002 of developing a secret uranium-enrichment program. The North responded by throwing out weapons inspectors and leaving the NPT.
Delegations to the talks began holding bilateral meetings on Tuesday, and the chief negotiators for both Koreas met for about 100 minutes.
"We have had constructive and in-depth talks about how to implement the joint statement," North Korean lead delegate Kim Gye-gwan said.
In an encouraging sign, South Korean envoy Song Min-soon told reporters following the meeting with Kim that both sides "agreed to a need to keep alive the intention" of the joint statement.
However, North Korea adopted an angry stance on the eve of the talks, when a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said US President George W. Bush had on this week's trip to Brazil slandered leader Kim Jong-Il.
Bush "malignantly slandered our supreme headquarters with such unspeakable vituperation as 'tyrant' and the like," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
"If this is true, what he uttered is a blatant violation of the spirit of the joint statement of the six-party talks which calls for 'respect for sovereignty' and 'peaceful co-existence'."
Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a North Korean official as restating Pyongyang's position that it wanted a nuclear reactor, diplomatic relations with the United States and other assistance to coincide with it disarming.
China has asked that the first phase of the next round of talks ends by Friday so that diplomats can also attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in South Korea on November 18 and 19.
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N.Korea Accuses Bush Of Putting Six-Party Talks In Jeopardy
Seoul (AFP) Nov 08, 2005
Stalinist North Korea accused US President George W. Bush on Tuesday of putting six-party nuclear disarmament talks in jeopardy by slandering its leader.
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