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Six parties take nuclear freeze as first step
By Hu Xiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-26 00:17

The United States has accepted a proposal on freezing nuclear programmes as the first phase of the non-nuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula, the host of six-party talks, China, confirmed on Friday.

Zhang Qiyue, foreign ministry spokeswoman and also a member of the Chinese delegation to the third round of six-party talks on the issue, told reporters that a consensus had been reached by all participants that a nuclear freeze would be the first step to the non-nuclearization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"A fundamental political consensus exists that a nuclear freeze is the first step towards non-nuclearization and corresponding measures should be adopted," Zhang said.

"The consultations of the delegation heads on the third day of the talks were candid and useful and they agreed to start the nuclear freeze and take corresponding measures as the first phase of nuclear abandonment at an early date," she said.

China, who has organized all three rounds of the talks since last year, also recognized that there were still differences on some specific issues, including the implementation of the freeze.

"Of course, there are differences as to how to implement the nuclear freeze, but we have seen promising signs that the parties concerned wish to earnestly study the various proposals," Zhang said.

On the first day of the four-day talks, DPRK and the United States raised proposals on the issue.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters later the US proposal would involve "a short preparatory period" for dismantlement and removal which would include the disabling of nuclear weapons components and key centrifuge parts. Permanent and verifiable dismantlement and removal of the DPRK's nuclear programmes would follow. At the same time, the parties would be willing to take steps to ease the political and economic isolation of the DPRK.

Kim Kye-gwan, head of the DPRK delegation, said that his delegation would put forward concrete plans on freezing nuclear programmes if the US party withdrew demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement and accepted a "freeze for compensation" programme.

It is the first time the United States and DPRK have publicly confirmed their specific plans for the solution of the nuclear issue since the nuclear standoff began in October 2002.

Since the six-party negotiations began last year, the United States and the DPRK have remained poles apart as Washington sticks to complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all of Pyongyang's nuclear programmes, while Pyongyang demands economic aid for its freezing first and then dismantling.

On Friday, all the delegations held "frequent inter-meetings" and the heads of delegations held talks in small groups, according to Zhang. The deputy heads also discussed the specific issues and disputes.

She said that DPRK's basic stance on the issue "has no change" as of Friday afternoon.

But she stressed that all parties showed a positive attitude to seriously studying the differences.

"If we can build on our confidence, the prospects of resolving the issue are still good," Zhang said.

All parties have recognized the importance of the mechanism of six-party talks, which also involves the Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan, she said.

Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, head of the Chinese delegation, said on Friday that "the chance for peace has appeared" during the on-going six-party talks, a source with the Chinese foreign ministry said.

There are signs that a document is expected to be delivered at the end of the third round of talks on Saturday.

"The consensus reached in the talks should be recorded in written form," Zhang said, adding that China and other parties are making efforts to achieve that goal.

"But as for what specific form it should be, it is still under discussion by the relevant parties."

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