Progress cited as US-North Korea talks resume

Washington’s envoy applauds resumption of nuclear disarmament talks for first time since death of Kim Jong-il.

north korea
Glyn Davies says the fact the two sides were able to have a ‘wide-ranging exchange’ represented progress [AFP]

A United States diplomat has said there has been no breakthrough in talks between Washington and North Korea, the first nuclear disarmament negotiations since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.

Glyn Davies, co-ordinator for US policy on North Korea, said on Friday that there was some progress, however, and that he had a “better understanding” of North Korea’s position on its controversial nuclear programme.

“The talks were serious and substantive … I think we made a little bit of progress,” Davies told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting in Beijing.

“We have been able to illuminate the issues a bit better, gain a better understanding of their point of view, their rationale and their position.”

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan, reporting from Beijing, said “No one really expected to see major progress come out of these talks.

“In many ways this was just an opportunity for the two sides to sit down once again, the first time that the Americans and North Koreans have had the chance to sit down since the death of Kim Jong-il.”

New leadership

The talks were seen as a chance for Washington to clarify what policies are planned by North Korea’s untested new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over leadership of the secretive nation in after the death of his father on December 17.

The US has been exploring a resumption of six-nation talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme which are chaired by China and also include Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.

Analysts say Pyongyang, which has said it wants to return to the six-party talks, albeit without any preconditions, may be eager to resume discussions with Washington to show the regime is operating as it was before Kim’s death.

‘Dramatic difference’

Davies said there was no “dramatic difference” in the way the North Korean delegation, led by veteran negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan, conducted themselves during the talks.

The focus was on denuclearisation, non-proliferation, nuclear enrichment, humanitarian aid and Japanese citizens abducted by the North.

Davies said the fact the two sides were able to have “this very in-depth, wide-ranging exchange” represented progress.

“What we have to do is evaluate it … and then consult with our allies and partners in the six-party process,” he said.

North Korea abandoned the six-nation talks in April 2009 because of what it described as US hostility, and conducted a nuclear test the following month, to international condemnation.

This week’s talks between the North and the US are the third since July.

Future negotiations

The two sides were scheduled to meet in December, but the plan was shelved after Kim’s death and the subsequent transition of power to his son.

Davies said he had briefed his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei on the talks, and would meet with officials in South Korea and Japan over the weekend before returning to Washington on Monday.

China, North Korea’s closest ally, has repeatedly urged a resumption of six-party talks. Washington and Pyongyang have not agreed on further meetings, Davies said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies