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US, North Korea Hold ‘Substantive’ Talks in Beijing

The United States and North Korea ended two days of talks in Beijing Friday with no breakthrough on Pyongyang's controversial nuclear program. But U.S. negotiator Glyn Davies says the talks were none-the-less “serious and substantive.”

Among other things, U.S. negotiator Glyn Davies and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan were seeking a solution that would enable the resumption of six-party talks on the North's nuclear program.

Though the two sides made no breakthroughs, Davies indicated to reporters he is not disappointed. “I think we made a little bit of progress. I think what we have to do is evaluate and look at what it was that the North Koreans had to say to us, and then consult our allies and partners in the six-party talks.”

Besides the United States and North Korea, the six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs also include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Davies said the two sides discussed a range of issues, but he refused to reveals details on topics such as food aid to North Korea or Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program.

He said Washington considers denuclearization the number one priority, but also wants to see North Korea make an effort to improve relations with South Korea.

North-South tensions peaked in November 2010, when North Korean shelling on a South Korean island killed four people.

Lu Chao, a Korea researcher at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Science, says continuing tensions are an important factor that could further delay any speedy resumption of the six-party talks.

He says the Americans will take into consideration South Korea's opinions in whether to resume the six-party talks. He describes the current relationship on the Korean peninsula as “severely antagonistic,” and says he thinks this is why it is unlikely the multilateral meetings will be restarted immediately.

The six-party process began in 2003, but has been stalled for more than two years after North Korea expelled international nuclear inspectors.

On Friday, U.S. negotiator Davies indicated that although there have been no major developments to break the impasse, all sides may be ready to once again inch forward. “For diplomacy to succeed and move forward, sometimes you don't need drama. That is just the nature of diplomacy. Sometimes what you need is just step by step progress,” he said.

This is the first meeting between U.S. and North Korean negotiators since leader Kim Jong Il died in December.

Glyn Davies also met with Chinese envoy Wu Dawei on Friday. He meets with his South Korean counterpart Lim Sung-nam in Seoul, on Saturday.