No new obstacles have emerged on the road to resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, the chief US nuclear envoy said yesterday, on the eve of the resumption of the six-party talks in Beijing.
After the meetings with Kim Kye-gwan, his North Korean counterpart, Christopher Hill said: "I think we're all in the same ballpark."
"We had a good discussion - at this point there are no show stoppers," the US assistant secretary of state said.
Hill, Kim and representatives of China, South Korea, Russia and Japan will hold two days of talks after UN nuclear inspectors confirmed that North Korea had shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
North Korea agreed on February 13 to close down the nuclear facility in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. The first shipment of the oil from South Korea reached North Korea last week.
The two-day talks are expected to focus on setting a schedule for North Korea to declare all its nuclear programs and then disable them.
Hill yesterday reiterated the US stance of having North Korea disable its nuclear facilities by the end of this year.
"I laid out my view on how this could be done and I think we had a good discussion on that basis," he said. "I think people are feeling pretty confident about our six-party process."
The fact that Hill and Kim had lunch together reflects the amiable note the talks will start on.
"We just had a nice lunch," Hill told reporters outside a restaurant in Beijing. "The atmosphere was very businesslike."
Kim said they "had a casual talk."
Before leaving Pyongyang yesterday, Kim told broadcaster APTN that closing of the reactor meant the process was moving into the second phase.
"There should be discussions on how to define the targets of the second phase, the obligations for each party, and also the sequence of the actions," he said at the airport.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao urged all the parties to make a concerted effort and earnestly carry out their commitments to solve the nuclear issue.
Jin Xide, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The resumption of the talks is a very important" sign.
Jin said the main tasks of the six parties in this round is to confirm the implementation of the agreements in the initial stage and to reach a consensus on the next stage, which would focus on North Korea's nuclear disablement.
"I have never heard comments so positive before. More and more people believe that North Korea really wants to give up its nuclear weapons program," Jin said.
"If the trend continues, the next thing could be normalization of the US-North Korea relations," he said.
(China Daily July 18, 2007)