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Korean nuke talks may convene in November
Updated: 2004-10-28 13:20

The six parties trying to end a crisis over North Korea's nuclear programmes could hold working group talks in November, diplomats said on Thursday, the first sign of progress since Pyongyang stalled after the last round.

"The Chinese side wants to have any form of meeting as soon as possible," said a diplomat who has been involved in the talks. "The Americans wish to have the working group meeting in November.

"A plenary meeting I think will be impossible, but maybe working groups," he said, referring to the possibility of lower-level talks.

China, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan and Russia agreed in June to try in September to hold a fourth round of six-way talks involving senior diplomats to try to end the North's nuclear programmes, but the discussions never took place.

China's new lead negotiator, Wu Dawei, was quoted in the China Youth Daily newspaper as saying the six parties would meet near the end of November. However, he said he was not sure if it would be a plenary session, working groups or some other format.

This week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul to try to push forward the negotiations and came under pressure from both South Korea and China to be more flexible to resume talks.

However, he did win pledges from Japan, China and South Korea that they would try to exert any influence over North Korea to return to talks.

Working group talks have laid the groundwork for the more senior talks.

The nuclear crisis began in October 2002 when US officials said North Korea had admitted to pursuing a secret uranium-enrichment programme.

The United States says North Korea may have enough fissile material to produce between two and five nuclear weapons.

Another diplomat in Beijing said working group talks in late November were a clear possibility.

Vice Foreign Minister Wu, who was China's ambassador to Japan until August when he swapped jobs with former chief negotiator Wang Yi, called for flexibility.

"The parties to the six-way talks cannot just solve their own concerns, they should also consider the other parties' concerns; if they only solve their own concerns, it will be difficult for the six party talks to continue," the newspaper quoted him on Thursday as saying.

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