N Korea 'open' to new nuclear talks

Comments come as Chinese prime minister begins three-day visit to Pyongyang.

    Wen Jiabao, left, is leading a high-level Chinese
    delegation to North Korea [Reuters]

    'No firm commitment'

    Chinese media quoted Kim, who is no relation to Kim Jong-il, as saying: "North Korea has never abandoned its willingness to realise this goal [of denuclearising the Korean peninsula] through bilateral and multilateral dialogue."

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    The comments appeared to be the latest indication of Pyongyang's apparent willingness to return to the six-nation disarmament talks that it broke off earlier this year.

    During his meeting with the North Korean PM, Wen reportedly urged Pyongyang to come back to the negotiating table and pursue denuclearisation.

    "Achieving denuclearisation through dialogue and consultation is the universal consensus of the world community and the essential path for resolving the Korean peninsula nuclear issue," Wen was quoted by Chinese television as saying.

    But Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera's Beijing correspondent, said that the North Korean comments needed to be treated with some caution.

    "They are open to the idea of multilateral and bilateral talks, [but] there is no firm commitment - we haven't had that yet," she said.

    China, North Korea's most important source of economic aid and diplomatic support, is the host of the stalled talks, which also includes South Korea, the US, Japan and Russia.

    'Goodwill' visit

    Wen's "goodwill" visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of formal ties between the two communist neighbours.

    Chinese officials have released few details about the itinerary of the visit.

    Talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme have unfolded in fits and starts, with North Korea taking some steps to disable its nuclear facilities after agreeing to an aid-for-disarmament deal in September 2005.

    However, it has carried two nuclear tests since, first in 2006 and then in May this year.

    Despite condemnation from the UN Security Council over its nuclear testing, the North followed the test in May with several further missile tests, ratcheting up tension with Japan and South Korea.
     
    But in recent weeks, the North has made overtures to China, the US and South Korea, most recently allowing meetings of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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