Saturday, August 21, 2010

N. Korea Willing to Return to Talks says Chinese Official

North Korea has agreed in principle to the resumption of six-nation talks on dismantling its nuclear program, Japanese media reported Aug. 21, quoting a senior Chinese diplomat.

Wu Dawei, China's special envoy on Korean affairs, said Pyongyang was committed to a step-by-step process towards returning to full disarmament talks, the daily Yomiuri Shimbun said.

North Korea was aiming to return to the talks after holding bilateral consultations with the United States and an informal preparatory meeting with dialogue partners, Wu was quoted as saying.

He said a date for official talks had yet to be discussed.

Wu visited North Korea from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18, meeting Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun and other North Korean officials in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang's official media said Aug. 19 that the two sides held in-depth discussions on regional and bilateral issues "including the resumption of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the whole Korean Peninsula."

But Wu described as "a little bit questionable" a report by the Korean Central News Agency that he and the North Koreans "reached a full consensus of views on all the matters discussed," according to the Yomiuri.

The six-party talks - which group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States - have been stalled since Pyongyang walked out in April 2009 and then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

Wu said he wanted to visit Japan, the United States and South Korea to brief them about his discussions in North Korea, the Yomiuri said.

In a meeting with a group of Japanese lawmakers in Beijing on Aug. 20, Wu confirmed North Korea's willingness to return to the talks, other Japanese media reported.

South Korea has demanded that Pyongyang apologize for the sinking of one of its warships before it would consider resuming the six-nation talks.

Tensions have been running high on the Korean peninsula since the March sinking of the warship Cheonan with the loss of 46 lives, with Seoul and Washington accusing the North of torpedoing the corvette.

Pyongyang has vehemently denied it was involved and fired off a barrage of threats and warnings to South Korea and the United States, which have been staging a series of military drills in a show of force against the North.

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