Korea crisis negotiations in progress: day two

The second day of six-party talks on North Korea continues with the main subject of denuclearization of Korean peninsula. Positive signs from both Washington and Pyongyang are raising hopes for progress.

Negotiators from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the U.S. started a plenary session at the Diaoyutai Guest House in Beijing a little after 9 a.m. local time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry press office said. Bilateral meetings will be held in the afternoon, a South Korean official told Bloomberg News.

Representatives are outlining their proposals and opinions today at the plenary session, an official with the South Korean delegation who declined to be identified, said.

Earlier Pravda.ru quoted chief Russian delegate Alexander Alexeyev as saying that preliminary points to build on could emerge following the Wednesday plenary session.

Japanese chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae said the morning session: "North Korea must make a strategic and substantive decision to commit itself to abandoning its nuclear programs with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula," Boston globe reports.

"We strongly hope that North Korea will accept demands for the complete dismantlement of all nuclear programs including a uranium enrichment program in an internationally reliable and verifiable manner," he added.

Three previous rounds saw no progress and Japan has warned that failure to gain concrete results this time would call the credibility of the talks into question.

Stalemate might prompt Washington to take the issue to the United Nations and open debate on possible sanctions, which China opposes and North Korea has warned would trigger conflict.

If the talks go well, the rewards could help the impoverished North out of diplomatic isolation and offer aid at a time when the World Food Program is warning of a worsening food crisis.

U.S. and North Korean delegates have been having unprecedented contacts this time in Beijing, holding one-on-one meetings on both Monday and Tuesday. Both sides seemed to be taking a less confrontational approach to talks which have dragged on for nearly three years.

The dispute arose in October 2002 when North Korea acknowledged to the U.S. it had broken a 1994 agreement and was continuing its nuclear development.

The U.S. proposed during the June 2004 talks to remove North Korea from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism and pledge not to attack the Asian country if it halts its nuclear program. The U.S. also said it would help end North Korea's political and economic isolation in return for the country agreeing to dismantle the program.

South Korea said on July 12 it offered to build transmission lines and pylons to supply 2,000 megawatts of electricity to the North, on the condition the Stalinist nation agree to close down its nuclear weapons facilities. The proposal was in response to North Korea's demands during the third rounds of talks in June last year for the same amount of energy aid.

North Korea, which relies on overseas aid to help feed its 23 million people, wants food aid as well as security guarantees, in return for disarming.

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