The U.S. and North Korea held “substantive and serious” talks in Beijing today in the first such meeting since Kim Jong Il died in December and his son inherited leadership of the isolated, nuclear-armed country.
The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, Glyn Davies, told reporters the two sides “‘covered quite a number of the issues’’ in the two rounds of talks, at the North Korean Embassy in the morning and the U.S. Embassy in the afternoon. The sides will meet again tomorrow, he said, without giving details of what they discussed.
Today’s meetings are the third since the U.S. resumed direct talks with North Korea in efforts to bring the country back to negotiations aimed at persuading it to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. seeks to gauge the country’s intentions since the younger Kim took over and ease tension between South and North Korea, analyst John Park said.
‘‘The proposition is that by engaging North Koreans in talks, negotiations, this is an effective means by which the U.S. side can hopefully prevent future provocations by North Korea against South Korea,” Park, a fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, told Bloomberg TV earlier today.
Davies had told reporters yesterday he would raise humanitarian issues and nuclear nonproliferation in the discussions with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan.
The possibility of restarting six-party talks over the North’s nuclear weapons program is up to Pyongyang, Davies said yesterday. The North backed out of the talks, which include Russia, China, the U.S., Japan and the two Koreas, in April 2009 and has shown no sign since Kim Jong Un took over that it’s willing to resume them.
Also yesterday, Japanese six-party talks negotiator Shinsuke Sugiyama met his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in Beijing to discuss the negotiations, China’s Foreign Ministry said on its website.
Negotiations are the only way to resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue and six-party talks are an “effective way” to bring about an agreement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing today. The talks “serve the interest of all parties,” he said.
Last October, Kim Jong Il said North Korea is ready to restart the talks as long as they occur without preconditions. The U.S. State Department said in August that North Korea must refrain from nuclear testing and missile launches and meet other conditions before the talks can resume. The North revealed a secret uranium-enrichment program in 2010.
Davies will head to South Korea on Feb. 25 to meet his counterpart there, Lim Sung Nam. Speaking at a news conference yesterday, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said North Korea can use the leadership change to transform itself, adding that he is open to resuming dialogue provided the regime is genuinely interested.
Seoul will host a nuclear security summit on March 26-27 to discuss preventing nuclear terrorism. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency released a report yesterday quoting government officials denouncing the planned gathering.
“We will never pardon the United States and the Lee Myung Bak regime, which push the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of war by taking issue with the DPRK’s self-defensive nuclear deterrent,” KCNA quoted Pak Song Il, deputy director of the Secretariat of the North Headquarters of the Pan-National Alliance for Korea’s Reunification, as saying.
— With assistance by Michael Forsythe, and Yidi Zhao