Hopeful start to Beijing talksBEIJING ¡ª On the opening day of the second round of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program, the participating countries reaffirmed yesterday their shared objective of seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis.
North Korea toned down its hard-line rhetoric from the first round of talks last August. Pyeongyang's chief delegate, Kim Kye-gwan, said that his country hoped for "positive results from the talks."
"We hope the talks will serve as a basis for narrowing down differences of positions and opinions between the DPRK and United States," Mr. Kim said. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea.
His U.S. counterpart, Assistant Secretary of States James Kelly, also sounded a more conciliatory note, saying, "The U.S. is prepared to join other parties in providing security assurances to the DPRK. President Bush has also made clear that the U.S. has no intention of invading or attacking the DPRK. This remains the policy of the United States."
However, Mr. Kelly emphasized that the United States has not changed its stance on North Korea's nuclear programs.
"The U.S. hopes to seek the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all DPRK's nuclear programs, both plutonium- and uranium-based weapons," he said. His comments indicated that the issue would likely be a contentious one in the talks.
During the initial session, which was closed to the public, the North's suspected clandestine uranium-enrichment program was put forward for discussion. After the session, the U.S. and North Korean delegations met separately. No details of the meeting were released.
Although South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck refused to reveal the keynote speeches or what other parties discussed, he did say that the North again denied the existence of the uranium program. "They have repeated their basic position," he said.
According to Mr. Lee, the first session was "cool and serious."
In his opening remarks, Mr. Lee sounded hopeful. "There may be discrepancies between the ideal goals and the reality that we face," he said. "But if each of the participating nations go into the talks with sincerity and tolerance and accept our differences then we can expand our common points."
Chinese, Russian and Japanese chief delegates also affirmed their goal of holding fruitful talks this time around.
"As the talks deepen, we will face more difficulties and meet more challenges," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
Separately, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said China did not want to see "any kind of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula."
The opening session took four hours, running over the scheduled time by an hour. In a press briefing afterward, Mr. Lee said he presented South Korea's three-phase proposal, that includes econominc aid in exchange for a freeze, which leads to full dismantlement.
"We have told the North of the international community's concerns about its alleged uranium program," he said. "North Korea's nuclear freeze is not separate from nuclear dismantlement but part of it."
Mr. Lee said the parties would be discussing the first phase of the solution to the nuclear issue in today's session, and they would deal with other related matters such as setting up working level groups. In the afternoon, parties also took time for informal bilateral consultations. The talks are expected to continue until Friday, but no official ending date has been set.