The United States said Monday it wants to see concrete progress in the next round of Chinese-sponsored six-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program opening December 18 in Beijing. The talks, which began in 2003, are reconvening for the first time in more than a year. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
While they're setting no deadlines for an agreement, U.S. officials say they want to see real progress toward a disarmament deal in the upcoming round and certainly no-backtracking from the agreement in principle the six parties including Pyongyang reached in September 2005.
North Korea at the time said it was prepared to give up its nuclear program in return for aid and security guarantees from the other parties, which include South Korea, Russia and Japan as well as the United States and host China.
But the talks broke down in November of last year, with North Korea citing penalties placed on a Macao bank the Treasury Department says was a hub for North Korean money-laundering and passing counterfeit U.S. cuurency.
North Korea agreed to return to negotiations at the end of October, three weeks after conducting a nuclear test that drew U.N. sanctions. Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the objective of the new round should be to bring substance to the 2005 framework:
"Our desire for this round, and I think it's a shared desire, is to build on the joint declaration from September 2005, and actually make progress in taking concrete actions, and steps, to implement that joint understanding in the joint declaration, not going back to re-litigate what was agreed to in that joint understanding," said Sean McCormack. "I think it was pretty clear what was agreed to in that joint understanding - using that as a starting point and moving forward.
The U.S. delegate to the six-party talks, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill set the stage for the new round with meetings in Beijing late last month with his North Korean counterpart Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan.
Hill is due to leave Washington for the Chinese capital Friday and spokesman McCormack said another U.S.-North Korean bilateral is possible before the six-way discussions resume next Monday.
The United States has said it is willing to discuss a way to end the banking penalties within the framework of the six-party talks. But U.S. officials say for the sanctions to be lifted, North Korea would have to end illicit financial activity.
The nuclear negotiations themselves have been stalled over the sequencing of North Korean disarmament steps and the provision of aid and benefits from the other parties.