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US Envoy Says Progress On Date For North Korea Talks

Envoys involved in six-party talks on dismantling North Koea's nuclear program, chief US delegate Christopher Hill (C), South Korean counterpart Chung Yung-Woo (R) and Japanse negotiator Kenichiro Sasae (L) are in hand in hands prior to their trilateral meeting at a Hanoi hotel, 15 November 2006.Photo courtesy of Toshifumi Kitamura and AFP.
by Peter Harmsen
Hanoi (AFP) Nov 15, 2006
Envoys to six-party talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program are making progress on setting a date to resume negotiations next month, the chief US delegate said Wednesday. Christopher Hill told reporters after meeting his South Korean and Japanese counterparts that they would recommend a few possible dates to China, which has hosted previous talks and is the communist North's closest ally.

"We proposed a couple of dates. Everyone has a busy calendar in December but I think we'll find something and we look forward to having the Chinese set the date very soon," he said.

The tentative dates would be forwarded to the Chinese, who in turn would consult with North Korea and Russia, according to Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Mitsuo Sakaba.

The trilateral meeting took place on the sidelines of the annual week-long gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at which the North Korean nuclear crisis is a key issue.

The APEC meeting comes less than two weeks after North Korea agreed in secret negotiations in Beijing to return to the six-nation talks, which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Hill, who arrived late Tuesday in the Vietnamese capital, held talks with South Korea's Chung Yung-Woo at a Hanoi hotel, before going into the three-way meeting that also included Japanese negotiator Kenichiro Sasae.

The diplomats agreed on three key points, Sakaba told reporters.

"The three countries will not accept North Korea as a nuclear power. Number two is North Korea should demonstrate in concrete terms their commitment to denuclearization, number three is sanctions will continue," he said.

The six-party talks, stalled since last year, are aimed at convincing the Stalinist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which were put on display last month when the North stunned the world with its first atom bomb test.

The October 9 test triggered the imposition of UN sanctions against the North, the only one of the six nations involved in the disarmament talks that is not a member of APEC.

Hill said there was "great harmony" among the five nations as to how to handle the North Korean crisis.

When asked why envoys from China and Russia had not met the other three negotiators in Hanoi on Wednesday, a Japanese official said the five nations did not want Pyongyang to feel they were "ganging up" on the regime.

"The final objective is not to antagonize North Korea, but for them to abandon their nuclear program," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said en route to Hanoi that there was no need for a five-way meeting on North Korea's nuclear program on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

"I think that the need for such collective meetings is simply not there because what we're really doing is preparing for the next round of the six-party talks," Rice told journalists travelling with her.

Both Hill and his South Korean counterpart said careful planning, not the precise timing, was the key to making the negotiations a success.

"We all feel the process really needs to show progress and this is why we need to plan this next round very carefully," Hill said.

APEC leaders are to express "strong support for a diplomatic solution" to the crisis and "concern" over Pyongyang's weapons test, according to a draft joint communique obtained Wednesday by AFP.

The leaders will call for quick implementation of a September 2005 agreement under which the North agreed to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for energy and economic aid, and a quick resumption of the six-party talks.

The Japanese official said APEC leaders were unlikely to issue a separate statement on North Korea, which would be seen as a more direct expression of concern than references to the crisis in a final joint communique.

"APEC is not a framework to have such a statement," he told AFP.

earlier related report
Five-way meet in Hanoi on NKorea not needed: Rice
Ramstein, Germany (AFP) Nov 15 - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that there was no need for a five-way meeting on North Korea's nuclear program on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum this week in Hanoi.

"I think that the need for such collective meetings is simply not there because what we're really doing is preparing for the next round of the six-party talks," Rice told journalists on the plane taking her to Vietnam before a stopover in Ramstein American base in Germany.

Rice expects bilateral meetings in Hanoi with her opposite numbers from China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, partners of the United States in the six-sided discussions with North Korea to try and convince the Pyongyang regime to give up its nuclear weapons.

Under Secretaries of State Robert Joseph and Nicholas Burns "were just out there," she recalled.

"If necessary, people are prepared to go back to have further talks," Rice said. "I think there probably will be more visits back and forth to try to prepare for the six-party talks because we need to take our time this time and make sure that when we go to the table of the six party talks, there is a reasonable chance for a successful outcome," she added.

The six-party talks wound up in September last year with an agreement in principle in which North Korea agreed under certain conditions to forego nuclear arms. But the accord was never put into effect and Pyongyang last month carried out its first nuclear test.

"We've tended to go to the talks and then try to let an outcome come from within the discussions from the bottom up," Rice said. "We're past the point that that model is going to work."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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China Urges Japan To Be 'Responsible' On Nuclear Arms
Beijing (AFP) Nov 15, 2006
China on Wednesday urged Japan to adopt a "responsible attitude" towards safeguarding regional peace after its neighbour said it should be allowed to possess nuclear arms for self-defense. "We hope the Japanese side will stick to its 'three non-nuclear principles' and adopt a responsible attitude in safeguarding regional peace and stability," official media quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

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