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    North Korean Negotiator Indicates Desire for Progress in Nuclear Talks

    North Korea's top nuclear negotiator has indicated a willingness to resume the stalled negotiations on his country's nuclear weapons programs. Kim Kye Gwan began his first full day of a rare visit to Japan by a top North Korean official.

    North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator is officially in Tokyo to attend a privately organized forum on Northeast Asian security issues.

    Delegates from the other five countries involved in separate six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, including the United States, are also to attend the forum.

    Those talks have been stalled for months. Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, Pyongyang's top nuclear negotiator, and several other North Korean officials have been granted rare permission by Japan to visit here, in hopes that discussions can take place on re-starting the negotiations.

    Kim raised just that possibility Saturday, when he paid a visit to a pro-Pyongyang association of Korean residents in Japan.

    Kim says North Korea has decided to actively pursue multilateral and bilateral contacts in order to advance the six-party talks.

    The chief American negotiator, Christopher Hill, is to arrive in Tokyo on Monday, and Wu Dawei, China's top representative to the six-way discussions, which Beijing has been hosting, will also attend the security conference.

    So will officials from South Korea, Japan and Russia, who have also been involved in the Beijing talks.

    A U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday that there were no plans for Hill to meet with Kim, but that possibility has not been ruled out.

    The U.S. university organizing the conference and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials both stress that the conference was not designed to deal with the nuclear issue, but will give the parties an informal opportunity to share views on the matter.

    North Korea began a boycott of the talks after the U.S. imposed sanctions on several North Korean companies, and a bank in Macau that has had extensive dealings with Pyongyang. Washington says the North Korean companies have been involved in illegal money-laundering, narcotics trafficking and currency counterfeiting by Pyongyang.

    Washington says the nuclear programs and the alleged illegal activities are two separate issues, and has urged Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.

     


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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