Six-Party Talks set to resume soon

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-01 06:47

Negotiators for the six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear crisis join hands before the start of a banquet meeting in Beijing, China, in this Tuesday September 13, 2005 file photo. North Korea agreed to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, South Korea's YTN television reported. [AP / file]

Stalled talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue will resume soon, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

At China's initiative, heads of delegations to the Six-Party Talks from China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States had an informal meeting yesterday, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

"The three parties engaged in a candid and in-depth exchange of views on continuing the Six-Party Talks. The three parties agreed to carry out the Six-Party Talks in the near future, at a time convenient to the six parties," it said. Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are the other three sides.
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In Washington, US President George W. Bush welcomed the planned resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

"I am pleased and I want to thank the Chinese," the president told reporters at the White House.

The DPRK, which announced on October 9 that it had conducted a successful nuclear test, has refused to return to the talks since November last year citing financial sanctions the United States imposed against it.

China is the host of the Six-Party Talks, which began in 2003 and are aimed at making the peninsula nuclear free.

Late last night, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who is also the chief US negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, told reporters in Beijing that the talks could be resumed as early as this month, or next, depending on what is agreed to by all six parties.

The United States expects "substantial progress" from the next round of talks, Hill said at a press conference following a bilateral meeting with his DPRK counterpart Kim Gye-gwan, as well as a three-way meeting that included China.

Hill said the DPRK had made no explicit promises that it would conduct no further nuclear tests; and added that the United Nations Security Council resolution on the DPRK remained in force.

The DPRK has set no conditions for returning to the talks, Hill said, but "wanted our reassurance that we would address the issue of the financial measures in the six-party process."

He said the United States has agreed to set up of a working group under the six-nation talks to discuss US financial sanctions.

Chinese observers consider the agreement as one of the first signs of easing tension since the DPRK's nuclear test, and said the news was "encouraging."

"This demonstrates China's continued diplomatic efforts have paid off with the DPRK and the United States set to return to the negotiating table," said Liu Jiangyong, a senior expert on the Korean nuclear issue at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

President Hu Jintao sent his special envoy, State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, to Washington and Pyongyang to meet Bush and the DPRK leader Kim Jong-il.

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