Beijing (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
US and North Korean envoys wrapped up two days of tough negotiations Wednesday over when to resume six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, but failed to reach agreement on a restart date.The US embassy said in a statement late Wednesday that North Korea had agreed to study its proposal regarding the resumption of the stalled talks, but stopped short of giving specifics.
"The United States shared ideas that could help ensure progress when the six-party talks resume. The DPRK promised to study these ideas," the embassy statement said, referring to the official name of North Korea.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's pointman on North Korea, met with his North Korean and Chinese counterparts during the two-day talks and no further meetings were expected before he leaves Thursday, according to the US embassy.
Hill also had separate meetings with the heads of the Japanese and South Korean delegations during his trip, it said.
The discussions were held to ensure the six-party talks produce "concrete results", the US statement said.
Hill would go to Washington or Tokyo Thursday, but had not yet finalized his plans, a US embassy spokeswoman said.
A Chinese foreign ministry statement said the two sides and their Chinese hosts agreed in Beijing to resume the six-nation talks "as soon as possible", but made no mention of a specific date.
"The three sides agreed to strive to convene the next round of six-party talks at an early date and to achieve positive progress," said the statement.
The six-party talks -- which involve China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, and Russia -- began in 2003 but have been stalled for the past year over North Korean objections to US financial sanctions.
Asked at the beginning of the day Wednesday if he was optimistic progress would be made in Beijing, Hill told reporters: "Oh, I don't know. I have no idea.
"But what I do know is the first round of talks will need to make progress and that's what I'm working on," he added, in comments broadcast on Japanese television.
The new focus on restarting the process also drew Japanese and South Korean envoys to a flurry of diplomatic meetings this week in China, which has played host to the six-party forum.
Hill said earlier he hoped this week's discussions would lead to a resumption of full-fledged nuclear negotiations in mid-December.
This week's meetings between Hill and the North's Kim Kye-Gwan were their first since secret talks in Beijing on October 31 that also included China's top negotiator, Wu Dawei.
Following those meetings, North Korea agreed to rejoin the negotiations in principle, but no date was set.
The resumption of full talks took on a new urgency after Pyongyang's first ever nuclear weapons test on October 9, which triggered United Nations sanctions.
Washington has insisted it would not resume the multilateral negotiations without assurances they would not be used as a stalling tactic while North Korea pursued its nuclear arms ambitions.
A US State Department spokesman said Tuesday this week's meetings were focusing on what would be expected from North Korea in terms of beginning its denuclearization, and what the other five parties could offer in return.
Kim indicated to reporters on his arrival Tuesday in Beijing that Pyongyang expected to re-enter the multi-party talks with the added leverage of being a nuclear power, a position the US has rejected.
"We have taken defensive measures against sanctions imposed on us, through the nuclear experiment," Kim told reporters, referring to the test.
"As we have attained that position, we can now have discussions on an equal level.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack Tuesday again brushed aside the North Korean position.
"The whole aim of these talks is to have a denuclearized Korean peninsula," he said.
earlier related report
The talks are the latest bid by China and Japan to repair relations badly strained under Japan's former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who stepped down in September.
Major General Zhang Qinsheng, assistant chief of general staff of the People's Liberation Army, paid a courtesy call on Defense Agency Director-General Fumio Kyuma.
It was the first meeting between a top Chinese defense official and a Japanese defense chief since September 2003.
Zhang also held working-level talks with his counterpart Takemasa Moriya, a Japanese defense official said.
The two shared their concerns over North Korea's missile and nuclear tests as a threat to the region, said the official, who attended the working-level meeting.
They also agreed to increase bilateral defense exchanges, to work toward building a Sino-Japan defense hotline and to achieve exchange visits by warships of the two nations, the official said.
"The meeting was honest, friendly and proactive in nature," Zhang said at the end of the talks, according to the Japanese official.
"It also looked to long-term issues and the meeting was strategic," Zhang said.
"After Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe took office in Japan, our relationship has improved," Zhang was quoted as saying.
Zhang, who arrived in Japan on Tuesday, will on Thursday visit a military school for cadets in Shizuoka prefecture west of Tokyo.
Military issues have been at the center of friction between the Asian powers.
Japan, along with the United States, has called for more transparency in China's rapidly growing military spending and opposed proposals for European Union countries to sell weapons to Beijing.
China is considered the country with the most influence over North Korea, whose own military build-up has caused deep concern in Japan.
North Korea on October 9 tested its first nuclear bomb. In 1998, it fired a missile over Japan's main island.
The Japan-China relations have begun to improve, following Abe's visit to Beijing in October shortly after taking office in a bid to ease tension built up during Koizumi's five-year tenure.
After the latest round of working-level talks, Japanese officials said they still hoped their Chinese counterparts would improve the transparency of Chinese defense spending.
"But we have seen progress forward," a Japanese official said.
Koizumi angered China and the two Koreas by going each year to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which honors war dead and war criminals from Japan's militarist era.
"After the Japan-China summit in Beijing, many things have begun to move. It is most welcoming," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
"It is extremely important that Japan and China make exchanges at all levels to communicate with each other," he said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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North Korea Policy Options
Washington (UPI) Nov 24, 2006
In Iraq, regime change -- even when it involved the fall of a dictator whom President George W. Bush called a member of the "axis of evil" -- created many unexpected and costly problems. The same thing could happen if regime change comes to North Korea. The time to begin preparing for these problems is now.
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