Denuclearization group to meet Sat.

By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-14 06:57
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The Chinese-chaired working group on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is to hold its first meeting in Beijing on Saturday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, China's top nuclear envoy, will chair the group, aimed at putting the Six-Party Talks' February 13 agreement into effect.

The group was founded following the agreement signed by the talks' six members last month, which called for the establishment of five working groups to oversee the key components of a deal which will see the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) give up nuclear weapons in exchange for economic aid and diplomatic recognition.

The Republic of Korea (ROK), the leader of the economic and energy cooperation group, will convene a session at its embassy in Beijing on Thursday, with the ROK's top nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo due to attend.

Russia will take charge of the group on peace and security in Northeast Asia, while diplomats from the United States and Japan have already held working group meetings with DPRK officials on normalizing diplomatic ties.

"The goal for the five working groups is to implement the initial actions the joint statement called for, to lay a foundation for moving forward the Six-Party Talks," Qin told reporters yesterday.

IAEA chief in Pyongyang

With a new round of Six-Party Talks beginning on Monday, key figures have already made a series of diplomatic visits to Beijing.

Prior to his landmark two-day trip to the DPRK, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei met with Wu in Beijing on Monday.

Qin described ElBaradei's trip as an important opportunity for the IAEA and the DPRK to improve their relationship, adding that Chinese diplomats believe it will help with the implementation of the initial actions of the joint statement.

Arriving in Pyongyang yesterday, ElBaradei told reporters that he hoped the outcome would be positive.

Inspectors from the atomic watchdog have not visited the country since the DPRK expelled them in late 2002 as a disarmament deal fell apart. The DPRK withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty days later.

They are returning as part of the February 13 accord, under which Pyongyang agreed IAEA personnel could conduct monitoring and verify that the Yongbyon nuclear facility has been shut down.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the chief American delegate to the Six-Party Talks, arrives in Beijing today to attend Saturday's denuclearization working group meeting.

Hill is likely to meet with Elbaradei, who is expected to be back from Pyongyang today.

ElBaradei will also meet with senior Chinese foreign ministry officials to brief them on the outcome of his visit.

(China Daily 03/14/2007 page2)