North, South Korea want progress in six-party talks

  • World
  • Sunday, 24 Jul 2005

SEOUL (Reuters) - Delegations from North and South Korea, meeting in Beijing on Sunday, said they wanted to see "substantial progress" in this week's six-party talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

The two sides said they they also wanted the participants to come up with a framework for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. 

South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, Seoul's envoy to the talks, met his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, in Beijing ahead of the talks, South Korean media reported. 

"We shared the view that participants in the talks should produce substantial progress and come up with a framework for the realisation of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula," Yonhap news agency quoted Song as saying in Beijing. 

Christopher Hill, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said on his arrival in Beijing the United States would like to see enough progress this week to go into another round of talks. 

"I wouldn't expect this to be the last set of negotiations ... we would like to make some measurable progress, progress we can build on for a subsequent round of negotiations," he said. 

"These are obviously very important negotiations that we are very much committed to." 

Six-party nuclear talks will start in Beijing on Tuesday after a 13-month hiatus, with regional powers trying to coax North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programmes in exchange for security guarantees and economic aid. 

On Sunday, North Korea called for the United States to drop what Pyongyang sees as a U.S. plan to topple its leadership and said its pursuit of atomic weapons is based on the belief that the United States has hostile intentions toward it. 

In the days leading up to the talks that include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, Pyongyang has said the discussions could proceed on a firmer footing if it could normalise diplomatic ties with Washington and agree to a peace treaty with the United States to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War. 

Analysts said it is typical of North Korea to try and muddy the waters ahead of a major meeting by bringing up conditions and charges just before the participants open talks. 

North Korea spoke of another condition on Sunday, saying in an article in its Rodong Sinmun newspaper, it wants an assurance from Washington that it does not seek to unseat the North's leader Kim Jong-il. 

Bush administration officials have said the United States has no hostile intent toward North Korea. 

"If the U.S. drops its ambition for a regime change and opts for peaceful co-existence with the DPRK, the talks can make successful progress and settle the issue of the denuclearisation of the peninsula," North Korea's official KCNA news agency quoted the newspaper as saying. 

North Korea, whose official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also repeated a call it had made earlier to have the talks not solely focus on its nuclear programmes, the article said. 

In March, Pyongyang said it wanted to turn the six-party talks into a forum to discuss mutual nuclear disarmament where it is treated as a nuclear power on par with Washington. 

Japanese government sources have said Tokyo will press the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals on the first day of the six-party talks in Beijing, the Daily Yomiuri reported. 

Analysts say that could upset Pyongyan and snarl the talks. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said at a 2002 summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that Pyongyang had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. 

Five were repatriated along with their children born in North Korea and Pyongyang says the other eight are dead. 

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