US, North Korea to meet one-on-one during nuclear talks
The top U.S. negotiator on North Korea's nuclear program urged the nation Wednesday to focus on concessions already offered in return for a commitment to disarm _ such as proposals to grant electricity aid _ rather than press new demands, AP reported.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was heading into a one-on-one meeting with the North Korean delegation at international nuclear disarmament talks that resumed Tuesday in Beijing after a five-week recess.
Hill said the North Koreans have raised new issues that go beyond a draft agreement being negotiated by the six countries at the talks, such as the construction of a civilian light-water nuclear reactor to supply energy.
"I think they should focus on what is on the table," Hill said of the North Koreans ahead of his meeting with them. "If it's electricity they want, the draft certainly provides electricity."
The six-party talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program were put on hold six weeks ago when envoys were unable to agree on a draft statement of principles. The countries involved _ China, Japan, Russia, the United States, North Korea and South Korea _ have agreed to pick up this week where they left off in discussing that document.
Hill said none of North Korea's five negotiating partners have expressed willingness to build a new light-water reactor for the North. Instead, he said Pyongyang could get energy under a South Korean proposal to deliver electricity across their heavily militarized border.
In the North Korean capital, the two Koreas held separate high-level talks. Seoul's top official on the North, Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, appealed Wednesday to the North to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
The North "must seize on this historic opportunity," Chung said, according to pool reports. "Delaying will do no good ... let's produce a good outcome."
North Korea has insisted at the Beijing talks on its right to a peaceful nuclear power program even if it gives up its bomb programs _ an issue that has divided the other countries.
China, Russia and South Korea have all backed the North's right in principle to a civilian atomic program if it follows international norms, but Japan agrees with the United States' view that the North's history of alleged deceit means it can't be trusted.
"When (the North Koreans) complete the dismantlement of their nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, they can enjoy, they can have the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy," South Korea's chief envoy, Song Min-soon, said Wednesday alongside Hill after the two shared lunch.
Hill has tried to keep the issue from sidetracking the talks, and emphasized earlier Wednesday that the main focus of the negotiations was the elimination of nuclear weapons.
"I want to make sure that on the fundamental issues that confront us in this draft, namely the denuclearization and ridding the Korean Peninsula of these terrible weapons ... that we can achieve agreement on that," he said. "When we do that we can look at some of these other questions."
Chief North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan said Tuesday before he left for Beijing that his country had a right to a peaceful nuclear program, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Still, Kim said the North would attend the talks with a sincere and flexible attitude.
No end date for the talks has been set, but Hill said negotiators hoped to wrap up "in a few days" before the Korean Thanksgiving holiday, Chuseok, which begins this weekend.
In New York on Tuesday, Chinese President Hu Jintao told U.S. President George W. Bush that China was ready to "step up" its efforts to achieve progress in the negotiations.