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Six-Party Nuclear Talks Resume
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The six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue resumed on Thursday afternoon in Beijing, primarily focusing on taking active first steps towards denuclearization of the peninsula.


"I hope the meeting will be a good beginning for implementing the joint statement, and a new starting point in the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Chinese chief negotiator Wu Dawei, speaking at the opening ceremony at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in downtown Beijing, the venue for the talks since 2003.


Following the ending of the last round in December without a breakthrough, a frenetic round-robin of diplomatic voyages was seen to restart the talks.


"Delegates from the DPRK and the United States have had productive contacts," said Wu. "All the various efforts have laid a more mature foundation for reconvening the talks."


A plenary session was held after the opening ceremony, in a "frank and practical" atmosphere, according to sources with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.


The six delegation heads reiterated once again their determination to pursue the six-party talks and to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and in a peaceful manner, according to the sources.


All the senior negotiators will strive to reach consensus on the initial steps for the implementation of the Sept. 19 joint statement, the sources said.


Under the joint statement, signed by all parties during the fourth round of talks in 2005, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.


Spokesman for the Chinese delegation Qin Gang said "the plenary session was candid and pragmatic, all sides exchanged views on initial steps of the implementation of the Sept. 19 joint statement, and made some constructive suggestions."


Qin spoke to a press briefing after the session, stating China's hope that all sides can soon reach consensus on the initial steps and quickly end this phase of meetings.


Hopes are high that the talks will end prior to the Chinese lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 18, and is a national festival celebrated in China, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK).


However, Qin added that the meetings would continue as long as necessary.


Today's meeting shows that the six parties are beginning to develop consensus, which will promote understanding and trust between all sides and promote the six-party talks process, Qin said.


He called on improved confidence and patience among all other parties, and to cherish the resumption of the talks as a chance for laying good foundations for future.


According to Qin, the establishment of working groups will be discussed during this phase of meetings.


A spokesman from the Japanese delegation echoed this saying all sides can better contribute to denuclearization measures through working group discussions, and to allow the statement to be implemented in a comprehensive and balanced way.


However, he stressed that the DPRK must cease and desist all nuclear activity, and accept supervision from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


Chief ROK delegate Chun Yung Woo expressed hope for an early consensus on the initial steps, saying this would be crucial to the implementation of the joint statement and to build trust.


He said this round of meetings could see a joint document drafted earlier than before, since the parties have had frequent bilateral contacts prior to the meeting, and reached a certain degree of consensus.


US chief negotiator Christopher Hill said the six parties are "coalescing around" some themes, and "we hope we can achieve some kind of joint statement here".


The Chinese side should circulate a draft later Thursday or early Friday to this end, Hill told reporters after dinner.


Hill said that if the United States and the DPRK can agree on today’s discussions, "it will be a clear sign that we are moving along the path and a clear sign that we will move towards full implementation of the September statement".


However, Hill remained slightly cautious about the prospect of an agreement, saying "it is not easy to achieve these actions, because the first step of a journey is often a difficult step".


(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2007)

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