Wed, Nov 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Six-party talks on North Korea could start in December

AFP , BEIJING

The stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program are likely to restart next month, the chief US negotiator to the diplomatic process said here yesterday after talks with Chinese officials.

"I believe we will have the six-party talks probably in the middle of December," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters here before flying back to Washington.

Hill spoke to reporters after meeting with his Chinese counterpart to the six-nation forum, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei (武大偉), for more than four hours in Beijing.

"I came up to talk with my counterpart about the preparations for the six-party talks and see how we'd like to proceed and we had very good discussions on that," Hill said.

The six-nation talks, first launched in 2003 in an effort to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, broke down a year ago when Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions against it.

North Korea then joined the global nuclear club by conducting its first atomic test on Oct. 9.

But North Korea surprised the world again when it agreed on Oct. 31 to return to the six-nation forum, which involve the two Koreas, China, the US, Japan and Russia.

The apparent breakthrough came after a day of secret meetings in Beijing between Hill, China's Wu and North Korea's Kim Gye-gwan.

In those meetings, North Korea and the US agreed the sanctions issue would be discussed within the six-nation forum.

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