Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 1 News List

North Korea to return to talks

AFP AND AP , BEIJING AND WASHINGTON

North Korea has agreed to return to talks on its nuclear program and they could start within one month, the US announced yesterday, just weeks after the regime stunned the world with an atom bomb test.

Christopher Hill, Washington's chief negotiator on North Korea, announced the sudden breakthrough after secret talks yesterday in Beijing with his Chinese and North Korean counterparts.

He said the six-nation talks were likely to resume as early as this month and that North Korea, one of the most impoverished and isolated countries in the world, had set no conditions for the resumption.

"We believe it will be either this coming month, November, [or] possibly December," Hill told reporters when asked when the talks would restart.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the Chinese foreign ministry said the chief delegates to the talks from China, North Korea and the US had met in Beijing and reached an agreement.

"On October 31, at China's initiative, the Chinese, North Korean and US chief delegates to the six-party talks met unofficially in Beijing," it said. "The three parties engaged in a frank and deep exchange of views on continuing the six-party talks. The three parties agreed to carry out the six-party talks in the near future, at the six parties' convenience."

The breakthrough comes just over three weeks after Stalinist North Korea carried out its first nuclear weapons test, sparking global condemnation and sweeping UN sanctions.

The six-party talks -- hosted by China and which also involve Japan, South Korea and Russia -- began in 2003 with the intent of convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush said on Monday he would oppose helping Japan, South Korea and Taiwan develop nuclear weapons to guard against any threat from North Korea.

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