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N. Korean Assessment of US Visit Seen as Positive in S. Korea


Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency says the meeting with U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth produced 'a series of common understandings on the need to resume the six-party talks.'

North Korea is giving an upbeat assessment of a visit by a senior U.S. envoy. In Seoul, experts on Pyongyang see the reaction as a sliver of progress toward resuming talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency on Friday said the meeting with U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth produced "a series of common understandings on the need to resume the six-party talks."

That language echoes Bosworth's own comments Thursday when he returned to Seoul after visiting North Korea. He spent Wednesday meeting with officials in Pyongyang, trying to coax them back to six-nation talks aimed at ending the country's nuclear programs.

The KCNA report also echoed Bosworth's assessment that Pyongyang is serious about implementing a September 2005 agreement on a gradual disarmament in exchange for diplomatic engagement and material assistance.

Kim Young-hyeon, a North Korea scholar at Seoul's Donguk University, says the degree of harmony between the U.S. and North Korean comments bodes well.

He says the North Korean report kind of cheers Bosworth along as he visits the other six-nation partners - Japan, China, and Russia. He describes it as a careful expression of optimism on the nuclear issue.

Bosworth did not get the North to agree to a specific date for returning to the six-nation talks. Kim says that was not expected, since consultations will be needed with the other nations about timing.

Kim expects the U.S. and North Korea to continue discussions through the so-called New York channel - the North's United Nations representative office. He expects more one-on-one talks to take place soon.

He says another bilateral conversation should take place in January or February. Then, in his words, more six-nation talks may "bloom" along with the spring.

For six years, the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia have tried to persuade North Korea to fulfill its many promises to give up nuclear weapons. However, Pyongyang has twice tested nuclear devices and has frequently stalled the six-nation talks. Earlier this year it declared the process useless and vowed never to return. Experts on North Korea, however, say the bite of sanctions and a worsening economic situation may have persuaded Pyongyang to reconsider that position.

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