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US, Chinese and North Korean Nuclear Negotiators Meet in Beijing


Negotiators from the United States, China and North Korea have met in Beijing to discuss restarting six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program. From the Chinese capital, Roger Wilkison reports that diplomats from all three countries are refusing to give details about the meeting.

The U.S., Chinese and North Korean envoys to the six-party talks are keeping a low profile, avoiding any encounters with the news media. Their Japanese and South Korean counterparts, who also are visiting Beijing this week, stayed out of the limelight, too.

Russia, the sixth member of the negotiations, has not sent an emissary to the current round of meetings in Beijing.

China's Foreign Ministry acknowledged that Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei met Tuesday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan shortly after the North Korean negotiator arrived in Beijing. Spokeswoman Jiang Yu says China hopes such meetings can lead to the early resumption of the six-party negotiations.

"We hope all sides can take full use of this opportunity of contact to take a pragmatic and flexible attitude, to have in-depth exchange of ideas and each other's relevant concerns so as to create conditions for the re-launching of a new round and progress in the six-party talks," she said.

Neither the Chinese spokeswoman nor the U.S. embassy would say whether Hill and Kim met separately or were accompanied at all times by their Chinese counterpart. Nor would they say whether the meetings would continue. The North Korean embassy had no comment.

Restarting the disarmament talks has taken on new urgency since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test last month.

For a year, North Korea has boycotted the talks in anger over U.S. financial sanctions. But late last month, it agreed to return to the negotiations after receiving U.S. assurances that Washington would address its concerns about the financial restrictions.

Still, upon arriving in Beijing, North Korean negotiator Kim told reporters that a date for resuming the talks depends on the United States' willingness to overcome issues that divide the two countries.

Kim says that through the nuclear test, his country has taken defensive measures against sanctions imposed on it. He goes on to say now that North Korea is a nuclear nation, it can negotiate on an "equal level" with the other five nations.

Under an agreement in principle, signed by all six parties in September 2005, North Korea committed itself to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in exchange for political, economic and security incentives.

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