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North Korean Nuclear Talks Envoys Converge On Beijing

US Envoy, Christopher Hill.
by Dan Martin
Beijing (AFP) Nov 27, 2006
Diplomatic efforts to kickstart the stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program got underway in Beijing on Monday as envoys to the negotiations converged on the Chinese capital. The United States' chief negotiator to the six-nation forum, Christopher Hill, said after arriving on Monday afternoon that he remained hopeful of the full-fledged talks resuming imminently, ending a year-long hiatus.

Hill, who held meetings in Beijing last week with China's envoy to the talks, Wu Dawei, joined top envoys from Japan and South Korea already in Beijing.

South Korean and Japanese press reports said the North Korean representative to the talks, Kim Kye-Gwan, may fly in, although officials from the other six-party nations could not confirm this.

It looked unlikely that the envoys would all meet together here, with the focus instead on bilateral meetings aimed at setting a date for restarting the talks.

"We'll be talking to our Chinese hosts again about a date," Hill said at Beijing airport, before repeating the US position that it was vital to ensure beforehand that substantial progress would be made when the talks resumed.

"Again the issue for us is to make sure we are extremely well planned for six-party talks, which we expect to get going again very soon."

Hill did not give any indication whether he planned to meet North Korea's Kim in Beijing this week.

"We've always said we are prepared to meet with DPRK (North Korean) officials in the context of six-party talks but let me first talk to the Chinese and see what they have in mind," he said.

South Korean envoy Chun Yung-Woo, who arrived on Monday morning, said he intended to meet only with China's Wu, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Japan's top negotiator, Kenichiro Sasae, flew to Beijing on Sunday and planned to meet separately with Wu and Chinese foreign ministry officials, a Japanese embassy official said.

The six-nation talks, which also include Russia, were launched in 2003 to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but broke down a year ago when Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions against it.

Resumption of the talks took on a new urgency after the North staged its first nuclear test on October 9, sparking international condemnation and United Nations sanctions.

Pyongyang agreed on October 31 to return to the negotiating table after a day of secret meetings in Beijing between the chief six-party envoys from the United States, North Korea and China.

However, the parties have since been unable to announce a start date. Hill said after his meeting with Wu last week he hoped the talks would resume in the middle of December.

Yonhap quoted South Korea's Chun after his arrival in Beijing on Monday morning as saying that the onus was on North Korea to ensure the six-party talks got underway again.

"The important thing is North Korea's political will to dismantle its nuclear weapons, not what we demand," Chun said, according to Yonhap. "The North is well aware of what it should do."

It was not known whether Russia's envoy planned to visit Beijing this week. A spokesman at the Russian embassy in Beijing said he had no information.

China, which remains North Korea's closest ally despite its unhappiness over Kim Jong-Il's regime continuing to pursue its nuclear program, has always hosted the six-party talks.

earlier related report
US-North Korean Contacts Possible In Beijing
Washington (AFP) Nov 27 - The US envoy to talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program could meet with his North Korean counterpart in Beijing this week, the State Department said Monday. "It's certainly a possibility," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said when asked if US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill would meet with the North Koreans as part of efforts to revive disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang.

Hill flew into the Chinese capital Monday for talks with his counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea -- Washington's partners along with Russia in a year-long effort to resume talks with North Korea aimed at ending its nuclear arms program, McCormack said.

McCormack described the talks as "preliminary" and designed to ensure that an eventual resumption of six-party talks involving the North Koreans "produces real results."

Press reports in the region said North Korea's main nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-Gwan, could join the other diplomats in Beijing and McCormack said a meeting with Hill could take place.

"He has in the past had these kind of preparatory meetings in which he has met with his North Korean counterpart in the context of the six-party talks, so it's certainly a possibility" this time, he said.

The six-nation talks were launched in 2003 to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but broke down a year ago when Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions against it.

Resumption of the talks took on a new urgency after the North staged its first nuclear test on October 9, sparking international condemnation and United Nations sanctions.

Pyongyang agreed on October 31 to return to the negotiating table after a day of secret meetings in Beijing between Hill, North Korea's Kim and Chinese Wu Dawei.

However, the parties have since been unable to announce a start date. And despite its decision to return to the negotiating table, a top North Korean diplomat said last week that Pyongyang would not give up its nuclear weapons.

On his arrival in Beijing, Hill said he remained hopeful the fully-fledged negotiations would resume soon.

"The issue for us is to make sure we are extremely well planned for six-party talks, which we expect to get going again very soon," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Protest At Top British Atomic Weapons Base As ICBM Renewal Looms
London (AFP) Nov 27, 2006
Hundreds of disarmament campaigners gathered at Britain's main atomic weapons base Monday to protest Prime Minister Tony Blair's desire to replace the nation's nuclear arsenal. Protestors outside the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in southern England accused Blair of hypocrisy and undermining international treaties by backing such plans while opposing Iran's nuclear program.







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