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Secretary Rice Welcomes North Korea's Return to Nuclear Talks

  • Heda Bayron

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Beijing, has welcomed North Korea's return to multi-party nuclear disarmament talks later this month. But she stressed that simply resuming dialogue was not enough and progress must be made this time around.

Secretary Rice said Sunday North Korea's decision to return to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs is only a first step.

"It is not the goal of the talks to have talks. It is the goal of the talks to have progress and so I'm hopeful that in the discussions that would take place with the North over the next couple of weeks before the start of the talks that that message would be clear," she said.

The talks are expected to resume on July 25.

Pyongyang announced Saturday it would return to negotiations after a meeting between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in Beijing.

The North had previously insisted that it would not resume negotiations unless Washington treated it with "respect" and ended what it called a "hostile" policy toward Pyongyang. But U.S. officials said no concessions were made Saturday.

Ms. Rice thanked China for its diplomatic efforts in restarting the stalled six-nation talks. China has already hosted three rounds of negotiations, which also involve Japan, South Korea, and Russia.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Sunday all participants should continue to work toward the "shared goal" of a nuclear free Korean peninsula.

And South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said Seoul welcomed Pyongyang's decision and urged all parties to make "substantive progress" this time.

Talks stalled in June last year after Pyongyang rejected possible energy aid and multilateral security assurances in exchange for ending its nuclear programs, which are being undertaken in violation of international agreements.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue in recent months after Pyongyang threatened to conduct a nuclear test and shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor - a move analysts said could allow it to extract plutonium for use in building nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, North Korea said it would do its "utmost" to make progress in the talks.

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