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North Korean nuclear talks resume in Beijing
Updated: 2005-11-09 11:11

Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program have resumed in Beijing with delegates aiming to draw-up a roadmap on implementing a disarmament deal brokered nearly two months ago.

Delegates from China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Russia and Japan are scheduled to meet for three days in Beijing to put forward their strategies, then return to the Chinese capital in December for further talks.

The talks began after the parties engaged in a series of bilateral meetings during which delegations from the two Koreas met face-to-face, as well as those from the United States and China.

The six nations agreed at the last round of talks in September to verifiably scrap North Korea's nuclear programs in exchange for energy assistance and other benefits.

Japanese lead negotiator Kenichiro Sasae, left, and North Korean envoy, Kim Gye Gwan, right, walk into a meeting room at the opening session of the fifth round of six party talks in Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse Wednesday Nov. 9, 2005.
Japanese lead negotiator Kenichiro Sasae, left, and North Korean envoy, Kim Gye Gwan, right, walk into a meeting room at the opening session of the fifth round of six party talks in Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse Wednesday Nov. 9, 2005. [AP]
But there have since been sharp differences on how to proceed towards the final goal of disarmament. North Korea insists the United States must first supply it with a light-water atomic reactor for energy.

The United States has said the light-water reactor must be a final step after the North first rejoins the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accepts inspections by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States' chief delegate, Christopher Hill, restated his nation's position before the talks.

"It is very clear in the agreement what they need to do," Hill told reporters.

"Our delegation made it very clear that first they have got to disarm and create a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

"And once they are back in the NPT, with IAEA safeguards and at an appropriate time, we will have discussions about the subject of the provision of a light-water nuclear reactor."

Japan has said it will put forward a "roadmap" to the other nations outlining the steps it proposes all sides should take to achieve disarmament.

Japan's chief delegate to the talks, Kenichiro Sasae, presented his broad strategy to his North Korean counterpart, Kim Gye-gwan, at a two-and-a-half-hour bilateral meeting earlier.

"In the bilateral talks, the Japanese side stated its position that it wished to discuss how we formulate a roadmap in implementing the joint statement," a Japanese official said.

"The North Korean side said it is going to present its own view on that matter."

Sasae said he came out of the meeting with Kim hopeful the North Koreans were willing to make progress.

South Korea's chief delegate, Song Min-soon, expressed cautious optimism that some progress would be achieved.

"After meeting with each side (in the bilateral meetings) I came to think there is a way to reach an agreement on implementation plans even if it requires endurance," Song told reporters.

North Korea has given little away publicly about its intentions, and adopted an angry stance on the eve of the talks by claiming US President George W. Bush had on this week's trip to Brazil slandered leader Kim Jong-Il.

"(Bush) malignantly slandered our supreme headquarters with such unspeakable vituperation as 'tyrant' and the like," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a North Korean official as restating Pyongyang's position that it wanted a nuclear reactor, diplomatic relations with the United States and other assistance to coincide with it disarming.

The nuclear crisis flared up in October 2002 after the United States accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-enrichment program.

The North responded by throwing out weapons inspectors and leaving the NPT.

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