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North Korea And US Agree To Resume Nuclear Talks Soon Says US Envoy

Christopher Hill (pictured) has worked doggedly the past six months to kick start talks with Korea and make some tangible progress.
by Park Chan-Kyong
Seoul (AFP) Jan 19, 2007
US negotiator Christopher Hill Friday said North Korea and the United States had agreed to resume six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program soon and would meet separately to discuss financial sanctions.

Hill, on the first stop of a regional tour, said he expects nuclear discussions to restart before the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on February 17 in Korea, and financial talks as early as next week.

"We certainly had an agreement on getting the six-party talks going soon and had an agreement on continuing the BDA (Banco Delta Asia) talks which we expect to take place even as early as next week," he said after meeting South Korean officials.

The bank in Macau has been blacklisted by Washington following accusations of illicit dealings on behalf of Pyongyang, and contains about 24 million dollars in frozen funds.

Hill dampened hopes of an unexpected breakthrough after a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said three days of talks between the US envoy and his Pyongyang counterpart in Berlin had produced a "certain agreement."

"I'm sorry, I'm not really sure what he's referring to," he said.

But the US envoy was upbeat about his discussions in Berlin with Kim Kye-Gwan, including one session which lasted six hours.

"I am hopeful the next session can be more productive than the last session," he said. "I also feel we do have a chance of making progress at the next round."

He said the "positive tone" of reporting by North Korea's official media was encouraging.

The foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the North's state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said the Berlin talks took place "in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there."

No details were given.

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK (North Korea) and the US in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue," the spokesman added.

Hill stressed that negotiations should take place at the six-nation forum, which began in 2003 and is aimed at persuading the reclusive communist country to scrap its nuclear programme in return for economic and energy benefits and security guarantees.

"But we've always felt it useful to have discussions between rounds of six-party talks," he added.

"Certainly the discussions with the DPRK (in Berlin), I would say, were very useful and what we now have to do is to see how those discussions can be folded into the six-party process, whether those discussions can help lead to some progress in Beijing."

He added: "We had very useful discussions and I think the positive tone of the KCNA statement reflects that.

"I am pleased to see that KCNA, which is not always positive about everything, actually felt that those discussions were also useful and positive.

"I hope we kind of pick up the pace in the next session."

After spending 24 hours here, Hill will travel Saturday to Tokyo to meet with counterpart Kenichiro Sasae and then to Beijing for talks with its lead negotiator Wu Dawei late Sunday.

Along with the United States and Russia, they are the countries involved in the negotiations with the North.

The talks were suspended in late 2005 after the North walked out in protest at US financial sanctions. They resumed last month -- after North Korea carried out its first nuclear test on October 9 -- but made no apparent progress.

The North insisted that the sanctions be lifted before it discusses nuclear disarmament. The United States agreed to hold parallel discussions on the two issues, and a first round took place on the sidelines of the main negotiations in Beijing in December.

"The BDA issue is important to them certainly. That's why we set up this mechanism for dealing with it," Hill said.

He said a tentative date has been set for the next financial round. "I think we are actually working on the location of those talks so I would assume those negotiations would go forward."

Asked whether the six-party process could resume before Lunar New Year, he replied: "Again it's up to the Chinese (who host the six-nation talks) but I would think we'll have a six-party meeting pretty soon.

"I would hope that would be before that (New Year)."

earlier related report
US denies NKorea nuke deal but expects more talks
Seoul (AFP) Jan 19 - US negotiator Christopher Hill said Friday he expected six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program to resume soon but denied any agreement was reached in discussions this week with the regime.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said three days of talks between Hill and his Pyongyang opposite number Kim Kye-Gwan in Berlin had produced a "certain agreement."

The spokesman did not elaborate, but Hill quickly dampened any hopes of an unexpected breakthrough.

"I'm sorry, I'm not really sure what he's referring to," he told reporters when asked about the statement on his arrival in South Korea, first stop of a regional tour aimed at getting full-scale negotiations underway again.

Hill said he expects those discussions to resume before the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts in Korea on February 17.

The US envoy was upbeat about his discussions in Berlin with Kim, including one session which lasted six hours.

While he denied an agreement was reached, he said the tone of the reporting by North Korea's official media was encouraging in itself.

The foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by the North's state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said the Berlin talks took place "in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there." No details were given.

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK (North Korea) and the US in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue," the spokesman added.

Hill stressed that negotiations should take place at the six-nation forum, which began in 2003 and is aimed at persuading the reclusive communist country to scrap its nuclear programme in return for economic and energy benefits and security guarantees.

"But we've always felt it useful to have discussions between rounds of six-party talks," he added.

"Certainly the discussions with the DPRK (in Berlin), I would say, were very useful and what we now have to do is to see how those discussions can be folded into the six-party process, whether those discussions can help lead to some progress in Beijing."

He added: "We had very useful discussions and I think the positive tone of the KCNA statement reflects that.

"I am pleased to see that KCNA, which is not always positive about everything, actually felt that those discussions were also useful and positive.

"I hope we kind of pick up the pace in the next session."

After spending 24 hours here, Hill will travel Saturday to Tokyo to meet with counterpart Kenichiro Sasae and then to Beijing for talks with its lead negotiator Wu Dawei late Sunday.

Along with the United States and Russia, they are the countries involved in the negotiations with the North.

The talks were suspended in late 2005 after the North walked out in protest at US financial sanctions imposed on a Macau bank accused of illicit dealings on behalf of Pyongyang.

They resumed last month -- after North Korea carried out its first nuclear test on October 9 -- but made no apparent progress.

The North insisted that the sanctions be lifted before it discusses nuclear disarmament. The United States agreed to hold parallel discussions on the two issues, and a first round took place on the sidelines of the main negotiations in Beijing in December.

Hill said a tentative date has been set for the next financial round. "I think we are actually working on the location of those talks so I would assume those negotiations would go forward."

Asked whether the six-party process could resume before Lunar New Year, he replied: "Again it's up to the Chinese (who host the six-nation talks) but I would think we'll have a six-party meeting pretty soon.

"I would hope that would be before that (New Year)."

earlier related report
North Korea Says Nuke Talks With US Reached Agreement
Seoul (AFP) Jan 19 - North Korea said Friday that talks in Berlin this week with the United States over its nuclear programme were positive and resulted in an agreement.

The foreign ministry statement, as quoted by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, gave no details of the reported agreement.

"The talks took place from January 16 to 18 in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there," a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK (North Korea) and the US in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue."

Christopher Hill, the US envoy to six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, met Thursday for the third time in three days with his Pyongyang counterpart in hopes of resuming full-scale negotiations later this month.

Hill had talks with Kim Kye-Gwan at an undisclosed location after six hours of talks Tuesday at the US embassy in Berlin and one to two hours of further discussions Wednesday at the North Korean embassy.

Hill was due to arrive Friday in South Korea and will go on to China and Japan. Along with the United States and Russia, they are the countries involved in the six-party negotiations with North Korea.

Hill was upbeat early Wednesday about his first meeting. "When you have six hours of conversations and you're going to have some more... certainly you can characterise them as useful discussions," he said.

The six-party talks aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme were suspended in late 2005 after the North walked out in protest at US financial sanctions imposed on a Macau bank accused of illicit dealings on behalf of Pyongyang.

The talks resumed in December last year -- after North Korea carried out its first nuclear test on October 9 -- but made no apparent progress.

The North insisted the financial sanctions be lifted before it would discuss nuclear disarmament.

The United States agreed to hold parallel discussions on the financial sanctions. A first round of those talks took place on the sidelines of the last six-party negotiations in Beijing in December.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Ban Hails Signs Six-Party North Korea Nuclear Talks Will Resume Soon
United Nations (AFP) Jan 19, 2007
UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomes signs that six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program are set to resume soon, and he is encouraged by recent positive talks between US and North Korean negotiators, his spokeswoman said Friday.







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