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'Good Start' for Nuclear Talks; But Disagreements Remain
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The resumed six-party talks "had a good start" on the first day despite serious disagreements over how to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free, Jiang Yu, spokeswoman for the Chinese delegation, said yesterday.


Though expressing optimism, she told a news briefing that "the parties concerned remain divided by disagreements, some of them very serious."


Delegates from China, the US, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea met for the first time in Beijing yesterday after a 13-month hiatus.


Wu Dawei, Chinese chief negotiator and vice foreign minister, said after the opening ceremony that the talks should focus on how to concretely implement the joint statement signed on September 19 last year in line with the "action-for-action" principle.


Under the 2005 deal, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in return for aid and security guarantees. However, it boycotted the talks two months later in protest against US financial sanctions.


Wu urged all parties to "exert political wisdom, come up with political determination and courage to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free."


"We have finished the stage of commitment and now should follow the principle of action-for-action," Wu said.


In opening comments, North Korean chief delegate Kim Kye-gwan said that as his country is a nuclear power, the negotiations should focus on arms reduction.


He demanded that all UN sanctions and US financial restrictions be lifted before it disarms, and the country be provided with a nuclear reactor for power generation and energy aid.


The US offered in its opening comments to normalize relations with North Korea, but only after it halted its nuclear program.


US chief negotiator Christopher Hill said sanctions would remain until North Korea stops its nuclear program. Hill said he hoped for initial steps this week on implementing the September joint statement "to demonstrate that the process indeed has legs and is moving forward."


"The supply of our patience may have exceeded the international demand for that patience, and we should be a little less patient and pick up the pace and work faster," Hill told reporters.


According to Jiang, the US and North Korea will hold separate consultations on the financial sanctions.


The talks, the first since November 2005, will be open-ended but delegates said they expect a break for Christmas.


The dialogue comes amid a new political environment being shaped by North Korea's October 9 nuclear test and US President George W. Bush's loss of control over Congress to the Democrats in mid-term elections. Bush is under increasing domestic pressure to resolve the nuclear standoff through direct negotiations with Pyongyang.


South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo urged the North to "take bold and substantial initial steps" to dismantle its nuclear program and stressed that the other five countries' corresponding measures should also be bold and substantial.


(China Daily December 19, 2006)


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