|Bosworth, the head of the US delegation in Geneva, says there has been ‘some progress’ in the talks [AFP]|
A second day of closely watched talks between the US and North Korea is due to begin, with the most senior US envoy reporting some progress in narrowing differences over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
This comes as Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, separately discussed a return to nuclear talks with Li Keqiang, the Chinese vice-premier, who travelled to Pyongyang on Monday, according to Chinese state media.
Kim told Li, the man likely to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier, that a moribund 2005 deal should be the basis for fresh talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, the Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.
Kim said Pyongyang “hopes the six-party talks about the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula should be restarted as soon as possible”, Xinhua said.
The “principle of simultaneous action” should apply, it quoted Kim as saying – a reiteration of the North’s stance that the negotiations should begin again without preconditions.
The North formally quit the six-party forum in April 2009. It has since repeatedly said it wants to come back, but the US and South Korea insist the North must immediately halt its uranium enrichment programme, which it unveiled last year, as a precursor to restart regional talks that offer economic aid in return for denuclearisation.
Li said Beijing was “working for positive achievements, creating conditions for reopening the six-party talks at an early date,” Xinhua said.
China, which is Pyongyang’s closest ally and a major economic partner, has hosted the six-party forum since 2003, which includes the two Koreas, Russia, the US and Japan.
The meeting in Pyongyang took place on a day the US delegation hosted North Korean representatives at the US mission in the Swiss city of Geneva, their second direct encounter in less than three months.
After a day of “very intensive discussions”, Stephen Bosworth, the head of the US delegation, said: “I think we are moving in a positive direction. We have narrowed some differences but we still have differences that we have to resolve.”
The outgoing US special representative said that there had been “some progress”. On Monday, Bosworth and his replacement, Glyn Davies, had met the North Korean delegation, led by the first vice-minister, Kim Kye-Gwan.
Bosworth said the goal of the Geneva talks was “to find a solid foundation on which to launch a resumption of discussions both bilateral and multilateral, and we will continue to work hard to bring that about”.
Commenting on the talks, Victoria Nuland, the US state department spokeswoman, said they were going on in a “business-like atmosphere”.
“We look forward, in this round, to hearing what they have taken from what we said in July and whether we are able to make progress now, particularly on the nuclear side,” she said.
US and North Korean officials met in New York in July, ending a long break in direct engagement with Pyongyang since direct talks collapsed in 2009.
The Geneva talks will continue for a second and final day on Tuesday.