Korean nuclear talks see no breakthrough

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The chief nuclear envoys for North and South Korea said Wednesday they had failed to reach agreement on reviving international nuclear disarmament talks at a meeting in Beijing. The discussions between the South’s Wi Sung-Lac and his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-Ho were the second in two months designed to pave the way for full six-party negotiations on the North’s nuclear programme to restart. “We discussed how to achieve the right atmosphere to restart the talks,” Ri told journalists after the meeting at a private members’ club in the centre of the Chinese capital.
“Based on the results of today’s talks, we would like to try to restart the six-party talks with no pre-conditions.”
But while the communist North wants the talks without conditions, South Korea and the United States say it must first show seriousness about giving up its nuclear arsenal. In return, Pyongyang will receive economic, diplomatic and security benefits. North Korea formally abandoned the six-nation forum, a process which began back in 2003 and groups the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, in April 2009. A month later, it staged a second nuclear test which brought worldwide condemnation and fresh United Nations sanctions. All sides say they want to start talking again, especially after Pyongyang’s disclosure last November of a uranium enrichment programme which could give it a second way to make atomic weapons. South Korea’s Wi, who has said in the past it was “too ambitious” to expect the talks to restart in the autumn, described the latest meeting as “useful”.
He added that “this kind of dialogue is a part of the effort to restart the six-party talks”, without revealing any major breakthrough.
The meeting in Beijing comes after Wi and Ri held surprise talks on the Indonesian island of Bali in July, which were followed by a US-North Korean meeting in New York.
China, which hosts the international forum, had expressed hopes Wednesday’s meeting would prove fruitful.
“We support dialogue between North and South Korea and we hope the dialogue can produce outcomes so as to promote the six-party talks process,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists at a regular briefing.
“We hope relevant parties meet each other half way so as to create the conditions for the early resumption of six-party talks.” But expert Kim Dalchoong said a speedy resolution was unlikely. “The parties won’t jump into making decisions to resume six-party talks. They will need more rounds of serious discussions,” Kim, professor of political science at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told AFP in Beijing.