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US, N. Korean and Chinese Negotiators Meet in Beijing


Officials from the United States, North Korea and China have held a second day of talks in Beijing on resuming negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program. From the Chinese capital, Roger Wilkison reports it is unclear if there has been any progress.

None of the governments involved in the discussions have released details about Wednesday's meetings.

In a terse statement on their foreign ministry's website, the Chinese hosts of what are being billed as preparatory talks would only say the officials held a frank and deep exchange of views, and agreed to strive for progress.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan are supposed to lay the foundation for re-launching the negotiations, which have been stalled for more than a year. The Chinese statement said the three men had held both bilateral and trilateral discussions.

North Korea began boycotting the six-party negotiations after the United States imposed financial sanctions on Pyongyang. Re-starting the talks has been given a new urgency following North Korea's nuclear test last month.

South Korea's Yonhap wire service and Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted sources at the talks as saying Kim set preconditions for dismantling his country's nuclear weapons program: that the United States lift its restrictions on some of North Korea's overseas bank accounts, and bring about an end to the United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after the nuclear test.

South Korea and Japan, as well as Russia, are also members of the six-party negotiations.

Peter Beck, a Seoul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, says such demands reduce the chances of the talks resuming.

"…The signals that North Korea is sending is that…they're really not interested in compromising, that they want everything and then they'll talk about giving up their programs, and that's unfortunately going to be a non-starter, so it's hard to be optimistic," Beck says.

It is unclear whether there will be a third day of meetings in Beijing. Hill, who was due to fly to Seoul on Wednesday, is spending the night in the Chinese capital.

The United States insists North Korea should, without conditions, abide by the agreement in principle it made at last year's talks, to abandon all nuclear weapons in exchange for political, economic and security incentives.

Beck, however, says now that the North is a nuclear power, it might hold out for additional concessions.

"Given what they've been saying publicly and what they've been telling their own people, they're quite pleased and proud to be a nuclear power, and they're not going to give that up easily unless they get a lot more in return than they were being offered in the past," Beck says.

Hill assured Kim last month that Washington will address North Korea's concerns about the financial restrictions once the talks resume.

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