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Six parties seek more common ground
(China Daily by Hu Xiao)
Updated: 2004-02-26 00:16

Six parties involved in the talks on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula found "some consensus, though differences remained" at the end of the first day, the Chinese host said Wednesday in Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters after a first day of discussions that all six parties agreed that "taking action" is the best way to establish trust.

From left to right, US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, Republic of Korea Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck, Democratic People's Republic of Korea Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Japanese chief negotiator Mitoji Yabunaka and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losiukov reach their first consensus on joining hands together February 25 prior to their talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. [newsphoto]

The talks involve China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and Japan.

Delegates to the negotiations have been "earnest, practical and frank" in their speeches, said Liu, saying the second round of talks had entered a stage of "substantial discussions."

At the start of Wednesday's talks, the DPRK and the United States, the two major parties briefed the others on their positions which were interpreted by analysts as "softening though with firm lines."

The United States delegate demanded a "complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantlement'' of the DPRK's nuclear weapons programmes.

The United States will "seek a complete, verifiable dismantlement of all of the DPRK's nuclear programmes, both the plutonium- and uranium-based weapons,'' said chief US delegate James Kelly in his open remarks which were broadcast live worldwide.

Meanwhile, Kelly reminded the diplomats gathered in Beijing of a promise made by US President George W. Bush that "the United States is prepared to join with other parties in providing security assurances to the DPRK" and made clear it has no intention of "invading or attacking the DPRK."

Declaring this week's meeting will decide the future of six-party talks, Kim Kye-kwan, head of the DPRK delegation said his country will show "flexibility while maintaining principled positions.''

Economic aid is a key in Pyongyang demands for its freezing and then dismantling its nuclear programmes while Washington has said a freeze is not enough. Washington has asked the DPRK to first dismantle "all'' its nuclear programmes.

Some leading Korean studies experts in Asia have criticized the Bush administration's stance.

Fan Jishe, an international relations specialist with the government think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he is worried that if the US administration's main goal is to isolate the DPRK or to change its government it is a dangerous strategy for the Bush government in the region.

"As far as the DPRK is concerned, nothing can jeopardize its supreme national security than being labeled as an 'axis of evil'," Fan said.

However, Fan added, the DPRK should recognize that its security cannot be enhanced even if it develops or possesses nuclear weapons.

Analysts believe the DPRK has been considering taking some additional actions. DPRK diplomats held informal talks this month in Vienna with officials from the UN nuclear watchdog on a possible resumption of inspections of the country's nuclear complex at Yongbyon, Japan's Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday.

This was the first reported contact between the DPRK and the International Atomic Energy Agency since inspectors were asked to leave in December 2002.

Liu said Wednesday China opposed the practice of sanctions, blockades and pressure on the issue. China is even more opposed to the use of threats or force.

Liu said such issues as the realization of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the elimination of the rational security concerns of DPRK should be linked to a reasonable solution.

Liu said Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi had explained China's principled stance of working to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Wang, head of the Chinese delegation, said Wednesday China agrees the concerns of all parties need to be addressed through co-ordinated steps.

At this round, Wang said the parties would discuss how to identify the specific objectives in resolving the nuclear issue, explore measures to be taken in the first phase to resolve the nuclear issue, and study ways to continue the process of the talks.

He said China always hoped the matter would be solved through dialogue and peaceful means.

"We come to the talks to expand our common ground rather than to highlight our differences, and we come to solve rather than to worsen problems," Wang pledged.

Positive signals appeared Wednesday. The DPRK and the US delegations held a two-and-a-half-hour bilateral meeting Wednesday afternoon -- possibly the longest and highest-level formal contact since the standoff began in October 2002.

In the first round six-party talks last August, the two sides had an informal meeting.

Also Wednesday, ROK chief negotiator Lee Soo-hyuck hoped that despite conflicting positions, participants would try to find specific ways of resolving the dispute.

Japanese and Russian delegates also made similar calls and expressed gratitude for China's preparations for the talks.

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