North Korea, US agree to resume nuclear talks soon

Updated: 2007-01-20 09:29

SEOUL, Jan 19 - North Korea has agreed to resume six-country talks aimed at winding up its nuclear arms program soon, the US envoy to the thorny negotiations said on Friday.

"There was an agreement that we felt we can make progress and we should go ahead and try to schedule a six-party session," Christopher Hill told reporters in Seoul, commenting on meetings he held with North Korean negotiator earlier this week.

North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test last October, said only that it had reached a "certain agreement" with the United States at the talks in Berlin. But it praised the direct dialogue between the two bitter foes.

In a statement, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said: "The talks took place from January 16 to 18 in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there."

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK (North Korea) and the US in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue," the official KCNA news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

Hill and the North's Kim Kye-gwan had given no sign of a breakthrough after their discussions in the German capital.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he was not sure what North Korea meant by "certain agreement."

"Chris (Hill) said he wasn't sure either. You will have to ask them," said Casey.

Hill said after briefing South Korean officials on Friday that he and Kim had agreed they were ready to be back at the six-way talks soon and make progress.

North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States participate in the talks, which began in 2003 and are aimed at persuading the impoverished country to scrap its nuclear arms development for financial support and security guarantees.


The last round of six-party talks, in December -- which took place just two months after the North conducted its first nuclear test, triggering U.N. sanctions -- ended inconclusively.

Hill and South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo said they hoped the next round of the talks would start before the February 18 Lunar New Year, though the specific dates would be worked out after they separately meet with China, host of the talks.

Hill will travel to Tokyo and then Beijing this weekend.


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