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Restart of nuclear talks up to US: N Korea envoy

Written by: Staff

Tokyo, Apr 7: North Korea's top negotiator in six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme said today it is up to the United States to take steps to restart the stalled talks on the thorny topic.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan arrived in Tokyo, where he will be joined next week by envoys from the other countries involved in the six-way talks, aimed at preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Asked on arrival what he hopes to achieve in Tokyo, Kim said: ''It does not have to do with the six-party talks, and it is the United States that knows full well what needs to be done to revive the six-party talks.'' Some analysts have billed the gathering as a de facto version of the six-party negotiations, but Kim Kye-gwan appeared to play down that assessment.

''We are a founding member of the Northeast Asian Cooperation Dialogue,'' he said, referring to a private forum he plans to attend in Tokyo from Sunday.

''We have put importance on this dialogue and under the circumstances, we are putting even greater importance on it,'' he added. ''Through two-track diplomacy, we are seeking to contribute to the security of Northeast Asia.'' Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said earlier it was hard to predict what the gathering might achieve.

''Just because all the participants will be here ... doesn't mean it will suddenly be formal six-way talks,'' Aso told reporters.

Asked about possible bilateral discussions, he said: ''Even if they make efforts to meet secretly ... nothing can happen until we see what North Korea has in its brief case.'' The six participants in the nuclear talks -- the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- agreed in principle in September that Pyongyang would dismantle its nuclear programmes in exchange for aid and improved diplomatic ties.

But the last session in November ended without progress.

North Korea has said it would be impossible to return to the talks while Washington is taking action against it for alleged counterfeiting, drug trafficking and money laundering. North Korea has denied involvement in any illegal activities.

U S chief negotiator Christopher Hill will arrive in Tokyo on Monday for the private forum, and South Korea's new envoy, Chun Yung-woo, will also be in the Japanese capital along with China's chief delegate, Wu Dawei.

Hill has no plans to meet the North Korean official but has not ruled out doing so, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Korea experts said the gathering could set the stage for resuming the formal negotiations, but also said it would be hard to narrow the gap between Washington and Pyongyang.


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