US and N Korea to resume nuclear talks

State department says negotiations will last two days and names career diplomat as its new pointman on Pyongyang.

    Career diplomat Glyn Davies is replacing Stephen Bosworth as the US ambassador to North Korea [EPA]

    The US has announced it will resume bilateral talks with North Korea on the reclusive nation's nuclear programme and appointed a new envoy to the communist state.

    Mark Toner, the state department spokesman, said on Wednesday the talks between US officials and a North Korean delegation would take place on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland.

    The meeting comes nearly three months after US and North Korean officials met in New York, ending a long break in direct engagement with Pyongyang.

    In an interview with the Russian state news agency Itar-Tass published on Wednesday, Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, repeated his readiness to return to stalled nuclear talks "without any preconditions".

    "Our principal position that the six-party talks should be swiftly resumed without any preconditions remains unchanged," Kim said in a written response to questions from Itar-Tass. 

    The two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the US are involved in the on-and-off negotiations.

    Toner said Stephen Bosworth was stepping down as the US pointman on North Korea and would be replaced by Glyn Davies, a career diplomat.

    The two men will head together to Geneva along with Ford Hart, the new representative to the six-nation denuclearisation talks.

    "This is a change in personnel, not a change in policy," Toner told reporters.

    Toner said the US wanted North Korea to take "steps toward denuclearisation" before any resumption of full-fledged six-nation talks, as sought by Pyongyang and its ally China.

    'Seriousness of purpose'

    "What we want to see is a seriousness of purpose. We're not going, as we have said many times, to reward North Korea just for returning to the table or give them anything new for actions they've agreed to take," he said.

    The new US envoy to Pyongyang has been Washington's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. His appointment and the forthcoming talks indicate Washington wants to step up negotiations with Pyongyang.

    Last year, North Korea unveiled a uranium enrichment programme in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

    The US and North Korea have no formal diplomatic ties, and relations have been rocky.

    During a state visit to Washington last week by Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, President Barack Obama had strong words for the communist-governed North.

    Obamas said "if Pyongyang continues to ignore its international obligations it will invite even more pressure and isolation".

    Pyongyang pulled out of negotiations in April 2009 after being censured for test-firing a long-range missile.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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