China is calling for North Korea's security concerns to be addressed when six nations gather in Beijing Wednesday to discuss the North's nuclear weapons program. The call by Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong echoes North Korea's main demand going into the talks: Pyongyang wants the United States to agree to a pact of non-aggression.
The North Korean government has repeatedly accused the United States of preparing to invade it, as it did Iraq.
The Bush Administration's stated priority is for North Korea to get rid of any nuclear weapons it might already possess, and to dismantle its weapons program in a verifiable manner. Washington has said that if this happens, it would be able to find some diplomatic language that would allay Pyongyang's security concerns.
In addition to the host nation, China, the talks will bring together Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.
By Tuesday, all delegations had arrived in the Chinese capital. Members of the U.S., South Korean, Japanese, and Russian teams scheduled sideline talks throughout the day. No details of those talks were immediately available.
Diplomats taking part in the talks continued to play down expectations of immediate or major results.
A Russian official said perhaps the biggest challenge would be to keep all sides at the table through what promises to be a long and complicated negotiating process. The North Koreans, he noted, have a record of being slow and difficult negotiators.
Another official similarly said he expects no significant breakthrough this week. He said the meeting could be considered successful if all sides simply agree to a second round of talks.
The head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, did characterize the talks in upbeat terms upon his arrival in Beijing Monday. He praised China's role in arranging the talks, and said the meeting will give all sides a chance to present their views.
"I am very happy to be back in Beijing. We have worked for a long time. The Chinese have worked for a long time to have these multilateral talks," said Mr. Kelly. "We will be getting going on Wednesday morning and we are looking forward to a direct and fair exchange of views."
The three-day talks due to begin Wednesday are an effort to end a crisis that erupted in October, when North Korea admitted to a delegation headed by Mr. Kelly that it had restarted its nuclear weapons program, in violation of international agreements.