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U.S. Officials Head to China for North Korea Nuclear Talks - 2003-04-21

A U.S. delegation is on its way to Beijing for a three-way meeting with North Korea and China on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. VOA-TV’s Jim Bertel reports despite last minute doubts, the talks are scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Beijing.

Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who visited North Korea last October, heads the U.S. delegation. After that visit, Mr. Kelly said Pyongyang acknowledged having a secret nuclear weapons program.

The two sides have not held high level talks since then. At the U.S. State Department Monday, spokesman Richard Boucher said the multi-lateral discussions are the best way to solve the current crisis.

“North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a matter of great concern to the entire international community and especially to countries in the region, all of whom are interested in participating directly in the talks. We believe that inclusion of others in multilateral talks, South Korea and Japan above all, would be essential for reaching agreement on substantive issues.”

On Sunday, President Bush was upbeat when asked about this week’s talks with North Korea. The president believes by working with China, Japan and South Korea, there is a good chance Pyongyang can be persuaded to halt its nuclear weapons program.

“You got the United States adhering to that posture. You've got China adhering to that posture. South Korea believes that the peninsula ought to be nuclear-weapons-free. Japan strongly believes that. And I believe that all four of us working together have a good chance of convincing North Korea to abandon her ambitions to develop nuclear arsenals."

U.S. officials say Pyongyang must give up its nuclear weapons ambitions before there can be discussion of increased aid, and political ties with North Korea.