Negotiators from the United States and North Korea kicked off
talks on Monday aimed at restoring diplomatic ties. This forms part
of a complex agreement emanating from the six-party talks under which Pyongyang should
scrap its nuclear arms program for aid.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, the
highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the US since 2000,
and US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill Kim will meet
today for complex talks.
Though some view these talks as historic, US State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack sought to play down expectations of any
"I would expect that it ... would take some time in order for
that process to be completed," McCormack told reporters in
Washington earlier Monday.
"Trust must be built up followed by observing performance and
today is just an initial discussion," McCormack said.
On Monday morning, Kim visited the Korea Society, remaining
there for five hours in meetings with several US nuclear and Korea
experts and former officials, including former secretaries of state
Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright.
According to a statement released after the meeting, which was
jointly organized by the Korea Society and the National Committee
on American Foreign Policy, a range of bilateral issues were
discussed by both sides in a friendly and forthcoming
The participants agreed that dialogue would remain essential to
building a strong foundation upon which to improve relations.
Meanwhile, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that Kim
met with South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo last
Encouragingly, Chun announced to reporters that North Korea
seemed thoroughly committed to begin dismantling its nuclear
The long-expected bilateral talks come following the
long-standing six-party talks, involving China, North Korea, the
United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia. These ended in
Beijing on Feb. 13, 2007, with a joint statement outlining the
first step towards freeing the Korean Peninsula of any nuclear
Under the document, North Korea will shut down and seal all of
the Yongbyon nuclear facility and invite back IAEA personnel for
all monitoring and verifications the IAEA deems necessary.
In addition, the parties have agreed to provide emergency aid to
North Korea totaling 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to begin
arriving within 60 days.
The normalization talks between the US and North Korea are
happening ahead of Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, arriving in Pyongyang on March 13 to discuss
how to best oversee the promised dismantling of nuclear
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2007)