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N. Korean Nuclear Talks End in Beijing - 2003-04-25


The United States, North Korea and China have ended talks in Beijing aimed at easing the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Chinese officials say all three countries agreed to keep diplomatic channels open.

Chinese officials say the negotiators agreed with a handshake Friday to continue diplomacy. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao. "The heads of the delegation of China, North Korea and the United States have their hands shaken together this morning," he said. "All participating parties considered the Beijing talks a good beginning of a process leading to the settlement of the North Korea nuclear issue. All the parties agreed to further study positions of the other sides, and liaise through diplomatic channels on furthering the Beijing talks."

U.S. diplomats in Beijing would not give any details about the results of the meetings.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and North Korea's representative, Li Gun, each met separately with China's foreign minister, Friday morning. The delegates from all three countries also met together briefly, before wrapping up three days of talks - the first formal contact between Washington and Pyongyang since the nuclear dispute flared up in October.

An official North Korean statement says Pyongyang's delegates offered "a new bold proposal" to help resolve the issue. It does not say what the proposal is. The statement accuses the United States of avoiding talking about what it calls "the essential issues to be discussed between both sides."

The North Korean statement did not mention that U.S. officials reported that Pyongyang admitted it has at least one nuclear weapon, in violation of several accords it has signed.

President Bush Thursday accused North Korea of attempting to blackmail the United States with its warning it has nuclear weapons.

Japan is expressing alarm at North Korea's weapons program. Japanese officials say Mr. Kelly has told them about Mr. Li's admission.

Yoriko Kawaguchi, Japan's foreign minister, says it is unacceptable for North Korea to have nuclear weapons. She says Japan wants to see the issue solved peacefully so it will continue to talk with North Korea.

The United States says Pyongyang admitted last October it has been developing nuclear weapons in secret. Since then, North Korea has pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, restarted idled nuclear facilities that can produce weapons, and issued a stream of belligerent rhetoric.

Mr. Kelly is consulting with allies South Korea and Japan over the next few days, before returning to the United States.

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