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Three-Way Talks on North Korea's Nuclear Program Continue in Beijing - 2003-04-24

China's foreign minister says on-going U.S.-North Korean negotiations in Beijing about Pyongyang's nuclear program are "beneficial." His comments follow a phone conversation with the U.S. Secretary of State and come as diplomats from China, North Korea, and the United States begin the second of three days of talks Thursday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly is seeking the verifiable and irreversible end to Pyongyang's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

North Korea demands a guarantee the United States will not attack, even though Washington has repeatedly said it has no such plans.

After a meeting with North Korean officials last October, Mr. Kelly said North Korea had admitted it was breaking international agreements with a secret bomb-building program. That sparked months of tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

A U.S.-led consortium cut oil deliveries and North Korea responded with a series of tension- building steps, including the expulsion of U.N. nuclear monitors and restarting a key nuclear reactor.

China organized the three-way talks in the hope of getting North Korean and the United States back to the negotiation table.

In Moscow, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, welcomed the talks and said Russia is prepared to join them if it would help reach a settlement.