China optimistic on nuclear talks with North Korea

Six-nation talks that resumed Tuesday after a 13-month hiatus have laid the foundation for dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

"Our impression is all parties are sincere, earnest and realistic," Chinese delegation spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. "All the parties are exchanging frank and serious views on how to promote a nuclear-free Korean peninsula."

China, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia are trying to persuade the world's most isolated nation to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The delegates are willing to stay in Beijing as long as needed to reach an agreement, Qin said.

At the talks' opening, South Korea's envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, repeated his nation's offer of massive electricity aid to the North if it agrees to disarm.

In Seoul, South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young told a meeting of the ruling Uri party that discussions on details of the electricity offer to the North could begin as soon as Pyongyang agrees to abandon nuclear weapons. However, he conceded North Korea would likely make a counterproposal to Seoul's offer - which experts point out would effectively place control of the North's power supply in its capitalist rival's hands.

North Korea has demanded aid and security guarantees from Washington in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons. The United States says it won't offer concessions until North Korea's nuclear weapons program is verifiably dismantled.

Another issue that could complicate the arms talks is Japan's concerns about its citizens abducted by the North.

South Korea's main delegate Song appeared to issue a warning Tuesday to Japan not to derail the negotiations, saying it "would definitely not be desirable to take up issues that would disintegrate the focus of the talks," informs the AP.

Hill said Tuesday his delegation would remain in Beijing "so long as we are making progress in these talks."

"Nuclear weapons will not make (North Korea) more secure," he was quoted as saying by The AP. "And in fact, on the contrary, nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula will only increase tension in the region."

"The fundamental thing is to make real progress in realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said at the opening session of the talks in Beijing.

"This requires very firm political will and a strategic decision of the parties concerned that have interests in ending the threat of nuclear war," he said. "We are fully ready and prepared for that."

Neither the North Koreans nor the Americans offered any new proposals or concessions in their opening comments. South Korea's envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, repeated his nation's offer of massive electricity aid to the North if it agrees to disarm.

Russia, as a country also interested and solicitous about the results of the negotiations, hopes to accept a joint document in which all the principal approaches to denuclearization will be shown.

Head of the Russian delegation Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs of Russia, Aleksander Alekseev, accentuated the parties need to work out common methods to solve these subjects.

"We come out in favor of the Korean peninsula avoid of nuclear weapons," Alekseev said.

The dispute began in October 2002, after North Korea said it had restarted its nuclear program, violating a 1994 agreement with the U.S. Later that year, the U.S. and its allies stopped shipments of fuel oil to the communist nation, and in response North Korea expelled United Nations nuclear inspectors and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Bloomberg reminds.

The talks - they include South Korea, Japan, Russia and China - are the first since June 2004 and aimed at producing enough progress to justify the process, a U.S. official said. To make that possible, he said, diplomats plan to stay in Beijing for as long as necessary.

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