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US And NKorea Talk As Obama And Beijing Begin Discourse

Christopher Hill. Phot courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 7, 2008
A top US envoy has held talks with North Korean officials in New York about steps to verify their nuclear disarmament and deliveries of energy aid under the disarmament deal, a US official said Friday.

The envoy, Christopher Hill, met for dinner Thursday with the delegates, including Ri Gun, director general for North American Affairs at the North Korean foreign ministry, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

Ri Gun is heading a North Korean delegation to events in New York organized by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, a non-governmental organization (NGO), according to the State Department.

Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the North Koreans "discussed the verification protocol, energy assistance, and disablement of the North's nuclear facilities," Wood said.

The United States and its partners North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia must formally agree to a disarmament verification protocol now that the United States and North Korea have resolved a months-long dispute.

A date has still to be set for the six parties to meet and agree to the verification protocol, Wood said.

On October 11 the United States struck North Korea from a list of countries which allegedly support terrorism after Pyongyang agreed to steps to verify its nuclear disarmament and pledged to resume disabling its atomic plants.

The move appeared to save the six-party disarmament negotiations from potential collapse.

Wood gave no details on the subject of energy assistance, but Hill told reporters on October 28 that the United States was in touch with other countries to replace Japan in supplying fuel oil to Pyongyang.

US officials said on the condition of anonymity that both Australia and the European Union had been contacted.

Japan has refused to give fuel to North Korea as promised under the disarmament deal until Pyongyang does more to account for Japanese nationals kidnapped by the communist state in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies.

Under a landmark 2007 deal, North Korea was to receive one million tons of fuel oil or equivalent energy aid from the other five countries in return for disabling and dismantling its plutonium-producing plants.

Wood said that Sung Kim, who heads the State Department's Korea office, had three sets of discussions, including a working lunch, with Ri Gun.

"The talks were substantive, serious, and they focused on, of course, how to move the six-party process forward," he said.

earlier related report
Hu, Obama discuss China-US relations: state media
Beijing and Washington should "accommodate each other's concerns," Chinese President Hu Jintao told US president-elect Barack Obama in a phonecall that stressed good Sino-US ties, state media said Sunday.

Hu and Obama spoke Saturday, with the Chinese leader calling for cooperation on issues such as the current global financial turmoil but also urging US respect for Chinese positions on touchy issues such as Taiwan, Xinhua news agency said.

The conversation is thought to be the pair's first since Obama's election victory last week, with Hu becoming the latest world leader to get acquainted with the man whose election has been welcomed worldwide.

"Hu pointed out that since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 30 years ago, bilateral relations have generally kept developing despite setbacks," the report said.

The report did not say how long they spoke for or who initiated the call. However, Obama has been busy calling world leaders who had sent written congratulations on his defeat of Republican John McCain.

Hu was one of those leaders.

"China and the United States should respect each other and accommodate each other's concerns, and appropriately settle sensitive issues between the two countries, particularly the Taiwan issue," Xinhua quoted Hu as saying.

China on Thursday urged Obama to oppose independence for Taiwan, saying that the proper handling of the issue was key to good relations between Beijing and Washington.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan ever since the island split with the mainland in 1949 at the end of the civil war that brought the Chinese Communists to power.

Hu pledged, however, to maintain close contact with an Obama administration and "strengthen the exchange of opinion and coordination with the United States on major international and regional issues," Xinhua said.

During Saturday's phone conversation, Obama, who defeated his Republican rival John McCain in Tuesday's election, said China was a "great" nation and that strong Sino-US ties were good for the world, the report quoted the Democrat as saying.

Obama has been inundated with plaudits from around the world over his election, with even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a fierce US critic, congratulating him and calling for a change in "selfish" US policy.

The Xinhua report said the pair also discussed other issues including security and climate change.

"As the largest developing nation and the largest developed nation, China and the United States share extensive common interests on issues related to world peace and development," the report quoted Hu as telling Obama.

Hu also told Obama the international community needed to work together to "launch necessary reforms of the global financial system," the report said.

The Chinese president reportedly thanked Obama during their conversation for recognising the importance of China-US relations during presidential campaigning.

Obama criticised Chinese trade policies during his campaign, but not harshly.

Analysts expect smooth relations between China and Obama's administration as Washington needs cooperation on the global financial crisis from an increasingly powerful Beijing.

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US nuclear envoy due in New York for talks with NKorean
Washington (AFP) Nov 6, 2008
Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, was due for talks in New York later Thursday with a senior official from Pyongyang, the State Department said.

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