The second round of the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue ended Saturday afternoon with the six sides reaching consensus on setting up a working group and on the next round of talks.
The talks, which began Wednesday among the United States, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan, focused on the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at the closing ceremony of the second round that the consensus on setting up a working group and the next round of talks "is of great importance" in pushing forward the process of dialogue.
Li did not specify the time of the next round nor the arrangement for the setting up of the working group. But he indicated there is hope for new progress.
"Spring is a season full of hope," he said. "There is a thorny long way to go, but time is on our side and time is on the side of peace."
On the other hand, the United States described the second round of the six-party talks as "very successful."
A senior official of the United States also said on condition of anonymity after the end of the talks that China was not only a "participant", but also a "facilitator", and has done an "exceptional job."
At the four-day talks, the six sides held "substantial dialogue" and made "a big step forward" toward the realization of the final goal, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said.
Li described the talks as "profound and constructive" and the proposals put forward at the talks are "valuable."
He admitted that severe disagreements among different sides still exist because of historical and other factors, and cannot be fundamentally resolved through one or two rounds of talks.
He urged relevant sides to take a "constructive attitude" and gradually narrow the differences and expand common ground.
The six parties have been working hard to hammer out a joint document. Liu Jianchao, member of the Chinese delegation, said earlier that the document was hopeful.
A press conference by the host country will be held at 17:00 (0900 GMT) Saturday by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also head of the Chinese delegation.
Some Chinese observers said the result of the current round can be applauded.
"The six parties came together, held serious talks, and have reached importance consensus," said Yang Chengxu, a Chinese expert on arms control and foreign policy observer. "I think we should congratulate on it although severe differences remain."
Piao Jianyi, a Chinese expert on the Korean study, said Foreign Minister Li's mention of spring indicated that it is possible new progress can be expected later this year.
To the criticism that not enough progress was made, Minister Li argued that the results of the current round were "hard-won" and "should be treasured" since the talks started at a time when mutual trust was lacking and differences were growing.
The first-round talks were held in the Chinese capital last August.
(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2004)