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Low-Level North Korean Nuclear Talks Set For May 12 - 2004-04-29

The first working-level meeting of the six countries trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis will be held next month.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters the six-party working group will meet in Beijing on May 12. "Our aim as you are well aware is the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs and we hope that we will be able to make progress toward that end through this working group meeting in preparing for the next plenary at the end of June," he said.

In addition to Washington, the date of the talks was announced in Beijing, Seoul and Pyongyang.

Officials said that they hope the discussions will help break a deadlock that has persisted during two previous rounds of high-level negotiations.

The working-level talks are expected to focus on contentious issues rather than strategy.

North Korea's official news agency said that there is a bright prospect for settling the crisis if Pyongyang is compensated for closing its nuclear program.

The countries represented in the group are the United States, China, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

The date for the meeting was apparently set following a rare visit earlier this month by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to Beijing. China has praised him for his assistance in setting up the meeting.

The reclusive leader's trip came shortly after a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, who told Chinese officials it is becoming more urgent for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

The North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program.