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Major differences exist in six-party talks
By Hu Xiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-13 22:34

China admitted on the second day of a working-level meeting that "major" differences still remained on solving the 19-month-long standoff involving the Korean Peninsula nuclear programme.

"There still exist... some major differences between each side in some areas,'' Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at Thursday's regular briefing.

Meanwhile, Liu characterized the talks as "frank and candid," adding that "new content" had emerged, but did not give further details.

The inaugural working group meeting of the six-party talks, involving China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and Japan, started Wednesday morning at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. This was the same venue for the previous two rounds of six-party talks.

"China hopes all parties remain `flexible and patient' and seek common interests while reserving differences in line with the spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation,'' Liu said.

The spokesman said China's stance is to finally realize a "nuclear weapon-free" Korean Peninsula.

No closing date has been set for the working-level meeting, and reports suggest it might go on into the weekend.

This week's discussions could help pave the way for a third round of high-level six-way negotiations expected to take place in the Chinese capital before the end of June.

A series of bilateral and multilateral meetings were held in the lead-up to the talks, sources revealed.

The DPRK and the ROK held one-on-one talks after Thursday's session of the working-level meeting, according to the ROK's Yonhap news agency.

In addition, the US and DPRK delegations are "prepared to meet bilaterally" on the sidelines of the working-level discussions, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

China, the host of the meeting, did not confirm or deny directly any of these reports.

"All delegations during the meetings conducted all kinds of contacts and talks, bilateral or multilateral, which are quite normal and expected," Liu said.

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