North Korea's envoy promised to make "sincere efforts" as diplomats prepared to resume six-nation talks in Beijing on Wednesday aimed at stripping Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons program.
The last round of talks ended in September with the North promising to disarm in exchange for aid and a security guarantee. But the negotiators have not taken up the most difficult issues of how the North will disarm, and how to verify if it does so.
North Korea "cherishes the joint statement" issued after the previous round, China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Pyongyang's envoy, Kim Gye Gwan, as saying on Tuesday.
"We are willing to make sincere efforts at this round of the talks to fulfill the spirit of the joint statement," Kim was quoted as saying in Pyongyang, before flying to Beijing.
After the last round of talks, the North issued a demand for a civilian nuclear reactor for power generation, raising doubts about its willingness to fulfill its pledge to disarm.
But the North's leader, Kim Jong Il, promised visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao last month that Pyongyang would press ahead with the talks. Kim said the North was committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
In Seoul, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed hopes Tuesday for the talks' success, saying they were the only way to resolve the nuclear program dispute that erupted in 2002.
"Those who have common sense and are in responsible positions are hard-pressed to find any alternative to the six-party talks," Roh said at a lunch for foreign journalists. "Although it may take some time, failure is inconceivable."
A possible stumbling block is the North's demand to be given a nuclear reactor before it will it will disarm, a condition Washington has rejected.
A joint statement at the end of September's talks sidestepped the reactor dispute, saying it would be discussed "at an appropriate time."
China has said the new round of talks will recess after three days so negotiators can attend the Nov. 12-19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Busan, South Korea.
Beijing says it expects the talks to resume after APEC and take place "in phases," reports the AP. I.L.