The six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are expected to resume next month, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said over the weekend.
"We hope all the parties concerned make joint efforts to help start the second phase of the fifth round of the nuclear talks in January," Wu told China Central Television (CCTV).
Wu is also the chief Chinese negotiator in the talks; and the parties involved are China, the US, South and North Korea, Russia and Japan. The first session of the fifth round talks ended in Beijing on November 11 with a chairman's statement. According to the document, all the parties agreed to formulate concrete plans, measures and steps to fulfill the pledges made in the fourth round of the talks in line with the principle of "commitment for commitment, action for action" to achieve verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at an early date.
"Currently, there are some difficulties in the talks," Wu said. "We hope both the US and North Korea make positive efforts to push for the opening of the talks."
Getting in the way are differences over economic sanctions the US has imposed on North Korea financial institutions. Pyongyang has said it would not return to the six-party talks unless Washington lifts the sanctions, citing them as proof of Washington's hostile policy.
But there has been a flurry of diplomatic activities from all sides in the past month pushing for the negotiations to go ahead.
The US and North Korea engaged in a dialogue last week in Washington to lay the groundwork for the implementation of a multilateral agreement that would lead to the dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear programs.
US Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow addressed the Korean Council on Reconciliation and Cooperation a pro-unification civic organization in Seoul last Friday, saying "the US stands ready to resume talks in January, without attaching any new conditions."
Japan and North Korea concluded two days of talks yesterday in Beijing on normalization of diplomatic ties that have been stalled since October 2002.
In another development, Beijing and Pyongyang inked a pact on Saturday to jointly develop offshore oil reserves in an effort to further boost bilateral ties. The deal was signed after a 45-minute meeting between Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan and North Korean Vice Prime Minister Ro Tu-chol in the Great Hall of the People.
However, no details of the exploration plan were available.
(China Daily December 26, 2005)