N Korea nuclear talks 'to resume'

South's chief negotiator says delegates will meet in Beijing for first time in nine months.

    North Korea recently blew up the cooling tower at its Yongbyong nuclear complex [AFP]

    But China, which has hosted the forum since August 2003, has yet to announce a date for the widely expected resumption.

    "I will be in consultation with each country to secure an important bridgehead for achieving the goal that North Korea should eventually give up its nuclear weapons programmes," Kim said.

    He also said working-level meetings would be held on denuclearisation and economic and energy aid in between the top-level talks.

    Overdue declaration  

    North Korea last month delivered a long-overdue declaration of its nuclear activities, clearing the way for progress in the difficult negotiations.

    In a gesture intended to stress its commitment to disarmament, it also blew up the cooling tower at the  plutonium-producing Yongbyon complex.

    But the North last week also said it could not go ahead with the next stage of a six-party denuclearisation deal until other parties speed up their promised energy aid.
    Under the current second phase, the North should get energy aid equivalent to one million tonnes of fuel oil and the lifting of some US sanctions, in return for disabling Yongbyon and documenting its nuclear activities.

    Lee: North might keep N-arms despite scrapping its plutonium [GALLO/GETTY]
    The US has eased some trade sanctions and moved towards taking the North off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, in response to the declaration.
    The third and final phase calls for the North permanently to dismantle atomic plants and hand over all nuclear material and weaponry in exchange for diplomatic ties with the US and Japan and a formal peace pact.
    Kim, the South Korean negotiator, said he expects the next round to focus on evaluating the  nuclear declaration and establishing a system to verify it, on completing phase two and on starting the final phase.
    The negotiators would also prepare for a meeting of foreign ministers from the six parties.
    Some negotiators fear the North may try to keep existing nuclear weapons despite scrapping its plutonium production, Lee Myung-Bak, the South Korean president, said over the weekend.
    "There is concern that North Korea might want to retain nuclear weapons that they have already produced so, in fact, they can be considered as a nuclear weapon state," he told Japan's Kyodo News.
    The North tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006. 


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