Shenyang, China (AFP) Aug 16, 2007
Negotiators in six-nation talks to halt North Korea's nuclear drive held a first day of discussions Thursday on steps the secretive regime must take to keep disarmament on track.
The two-day meeting in northeast China's Shenyang city, near the North Korean border, is addressing what Pyongyang should do to declare and disable its nuclear weapons programmes.
"We will focus our energy on discussing how to move forward the process of Korean peninsula denuclearisation," chief Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said as the talks kicked off at the Liaoning Friendship Hotel.
The so-called "declare-and-disable" phase is the second step in a six-nation accord signed in February under which the North, one of the world's most impoverished countries, agreed to end its nuclear weapons programmes.
US chief negotiator Christopher Hill has insisted the reclusive communist nation must come clean on all nuclear weapons programmes for the process to move forward.
The United States suspects the North, which conducted its first atomic weapons test last October, is running a secretive highly enriched uranium programme in addition to projects it has already admitted to.
On Thursday, North Korean delegates voiced willingness to "resolve" the issue, Hill said, but added he did not see any real difference from what they have said before.
"How you define 'resolve' could take some time," Hill said after Thursday's meeting.
Hill has repeatedly emphasised the need for a "declaration," meaning a complete North Korean list of its nuclear arms-related activities.
Experts from the six participating nations met for bilateral sessions throughout the afternoon and evening Thursday.
"Most of our meeting (with North Korea) had to do with disablement, and trying to see if we can come up some common definitions of disablement. As you can imagine, there are many ways to disable a nuclear programme," Hill said.
As part of the six-nation accord, North Korea will receive fuel aid, security guarantees and diplomatic concessions.
North Korea honoured its initial commitments last month by closing its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and opening its doors to UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
In addition, no one outside North Korea is exactly sure how much nuclear-bomb material was made at the Yongbyon plant before it was shut down.
But the US envoy was cautiously optimistic about the progress that could be made at the talks in Shenyang, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the North Korean border.
The talks are considered vital to enabling further progress in the next round of full six-nation disarmament meetings in Beijing, tentatively set for early September.
"We're hopeful that this will get us to an agreement when the six-party plenary meets," Hill said.
The talks take place amid a domestic crisis for North Korea, which has been hit by devastating floods that have affected up to 300,000 people.
"It's a serious humanitarian issue, and we would like to be a part of the effort to assist. So we need to evaluate the situation and see what we can do to help," Hill said.
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NKorea's Kim seen trying to bolster regime
Seoul (AFP) Aug 13, 2007
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il will try to secure his regime's survival and bolster his country's economy at an upcoming inter-Korean summit, a Seoul politician who has met the leader said Monday.
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