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Delegates gather for North Korea nuclear talks
Updated: 2005-11-08 16:27

Delegates to six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for another round that aims to build on a disarmament agreement signed in September.

The talks, which group the two Koreas, Japan, the United States, Russia and host China are to open on Wednesday and are expected to last three days.

Last week North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told Chinese President Hu Jintao, on a rare visit to Pyongyang, that the North hoped this round of talks would "produce new progress".

But as he left Pyongyang for the talks, North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, sounded a cautious note.

"The six-party talks already have a clear direction. They are like a beacon guiding the six parties towards progress," China's Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

"But that beacon at present is far away, and moreover the mist on the ocean is very thick and sometimes it dulls the beacon. Some actions of the U.S. make it even more difficult."

Analysts do not expect a breakthrough as the countries wrangle over the timing of disarmament moves from North Korea and the aid and security guarantees it receives in exchange. Pyongyang also wants a light-water reactor for nuclear energy.

Some analysts said the goal of the session was simply to agree to a schedule for future working-level talks.


"At this round of talks, we will discuss how we will specifically implement the agreement reached during the previous round," Japan's chief negotiator, Kenichiro Sasae, told reporters.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun said the United States, Japan and South Korea would propose a roadmap for North Korean denuclearisation that would detail the stages of the process and what incentives other countries would provide.

In the first stage, the equipment to be disposed of would be defined. Nuclear facilities would then be frozen, followed by verifiable dismantling.

The final step would be North Korea's return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the newspaper said.

"We will try to meet again in December," a South Korean official told reporters. "An idea is to have a working group or a specialist meeting going at that time."

On September 19, North Korea agreed to "abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes" in return for aid and security guarantees from the United States and other countries. Those countries also agreed to discuss Pyongyang's demand for a new light-water nuclear power plant "at an appropriate time".

But soon afterwards North Korea said it would move towards nuclear disarmament only if promised the nuclear plant -- a step the United States has rejected.

The crisis began when Washington accused North Korea in 2002 of covert nuclear arms development in violation of international accords. Pyongyang denied the charge and promptly withdrew from the NPT.

Then, in February this year, North Korea, branded by the United States as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and pre-war Iraq, said it did indeed have nuclear weapons.

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