Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the chief delegate to the just-ended Beijing six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, said Sunday the talks were "very successful."
He made his remarks upon arriving in Seoul from Beijing, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The four-day talks concluded on Saturday after negotiators agreed to hold a new round by June and to set up working-level groups.
Following the US delegation's departure late Saturday, the Japanese, ROK and Russian negotiators packed up Sunday.
The talks ended with a chairman's statement that conveyed all sides' assurances they would seek a peaceful solution and are ready to take "coordinated steps" to address the nuclear issue and related concerns.
All participants expressed satisfaction after the talks while recognizing some major differences remain.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said during the closing ceremony, which was broadcast worldwide, that "differences, even serious differences, still exist... The road is long and bumpy. But time is on the side of peace."
Washington late Saturday welcomed the event's results, with officials saying that progress was made on a "regularized process" for a peaceful settlement.
"While key differences remain that will need to be addressed in further rounds of discussions, this round of talks made progress on a regularized process for the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of this issue," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
He said the parties had "very serious discussions" on comprehensive denuclearization.
Boucher said the United States would like to thank the Chinese government "for not only participating in the talks, but also for its exemplary diplomatic efforts in organizing and hosting the talks."
Kim Kye-gwan, deputy foreign minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Saturday at a news conference China plays an important role, adding the DPRK appreciated China's efforts.
Kim said the second round of talks was practical and the DPRK delegation participated in the talks with sincerity, aiming to solve the issue through dialogue.
He also reaffirmed the DPRK's stance that it should be compensated if it stops its nuclear programs.
Economic aid is key in Pyongyang's demands for its freezing and then dismantling its nuclear programs, while Washington has said a freeze is not enough. Washington has asked the DPRK to first dismantle "all" its nuclear programs.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday the talks had covered the first-phase goal of realizing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
He said the goal is for the DPRK to freeze all of its nuclear activities as the first step in the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and to accept inspections accordingly. Meanwhile parties concerned should make responses to the needs of the DPRK.
Wang said to give support to provide energy to the DPRK is one of the responses to replace its nuclear power programs, but there are still a large number of details that must be considered.
Another major advance in the talks is the ROK's offer of providing energy aid as long as the freeze is a stepping stone to nuclear dismantlement. China and Russia agreed to join the ROK in providing aid.
According to Wang, the DPRK side welcomed the proposal of conditioned energy aid.
Ruan Zongze, a leading expert on international relations, said the following negotiations would be harder since more details need to be touched upon.
Qi Baoliang, a Korean Peninsular studies professional indicated the deadlock is on the definition and sphere of abolishing nuclear programs since concerned parties can hardly reach consensus.
(China Daily March 1, 2004)