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Six-Party Talks Search for First Step

The six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue resumed Wednesday in Beijing as all parties searched for the first step in carrying out their agreement.


The talks, the fifth round since 2003, are the first being held as scheduled, which observers say shows all the parties are fulfilling the commitments made at the first joint agreement among all parties in September.


North Korea pledged in the statement to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and return soon to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.


The US affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula and has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons, says the statement.


The six-party talks also involve China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.


Following the conclusion of the fourth round, there were brisk diplomatic moves among the six parties, the most conspicuous being Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Pyongyang in late October.


The main task of this round of nuclear talks is to "outline details, ways and procedures for the implementation of the joint statement," chief Chinese negotiator Wu Dawei said at the opening session Wednesday.


Nuclear weapons abandonment and security guarantees, economic aid, and nuclear weapons inspection are among the focal points of the new round, according to some Chinese experts.


"The previous talks helped all parties accomplish a 'word-to-word' goal, and the new round will focus on how to carry out a commitment on the principle of 'action-to-action', which must be a complicated process," said Shen Jiru, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


At the opening session, Wu also shared with the other parties China's roadmap.


He suggested the fifth round be carried out in phases: the delegation heads of the six nations first table a general scenario and a working group or expert panel works out detailed rules and submit them to the delegation heads for consultation.


Kim Gye-gwan, the chief North Korean negotiator, said his country cherishes the joint agreement and would like to make sincere efforts to carry it out.


Heading to Beijing on Tuesday, Kim used a metaphor to signal tough negotiations ahead by saying, "The beacon is far away from North Korea and is becoming less visible sometimes when the sea fills with full of fog."


Chief US negotiator, Christopher Hill, also put pressure on North Korea by saying Tuesday that "the first step is to look at the issue of the denuclearization in the Korea Peninsula."


"When North Korea comes back to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) with the IAEA safeguards, at an appropriate time we'll have a discussion about the subject of the provision of a light water reactor," Hill said Wednesday, ahead of the opening session.


"The two primary actors, North Korea and the US, have yet to build up mutual trust and thus remain widely apart on which party should take the first step," Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations with Peking University.


Chief South Korean delegate Song Min-soon appealed all parties to have patience in nuclear talks. "The path is still 'open' for all sides to implement the joint statement through consultations," Song said early Wednesday.


Japan will "actively voice its opinion in detail on how to implement the agreement", chief Japanese negotiator Kenichiro Sasae said Wednesday, adding he hoped North Korea could implement the September landmark agreement.


At the plenary meeting after the opening ceremony, all delegation heads expressed their stances and opinions on how to implement the joint statement, sources with the Chinese delegation said.


All the six parties agreed they should make unremitting efforts to reach the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and maintain peace and stability in the peninsula and northeast Asia for common development.


Experts said a breakthrough will be possible if and when the two primary actors make the first moves simultaneously.


"Despite difficulties ahead, all parties in the talks should show political willingness and flexibility with sincerity," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao said.


"Only by showing attention and understanding to the concerns of all parties can the solutions acceptable to all parties come out as early as possible," Liu said.


(Xinhua News Agency November 9, 2005)


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