Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - Page 5 News List

N Korea and US to meet in Geneva next week: report

Reuters, SEOUL

North Korea and the US will hold a second round of talks in Geneva, Switzerland, next week to discuss ways to restart regional talks on disabling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean media reported yesterday.

Yonhap news agency quoted a diplomatic source in Seoul as saying that the two sides would meet in Geneva, possibly on Oct. 26, amid recent diplomatic activity which has seen the secretive state brought in from the cold.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and tested a second device in 2009.

However, tension has eased on the peninsula this year and a series of bilateral meetings between the Koreas and the US and North Korea has raised hopes that nuclear talks could be reconvened after a nearly three-year hiatus.

“I have learned that a high-level dialogue between North Korea and the US will be held in Geneva,” Yonhap quoted the diplomatic source as saying.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said it did not know anything about the report.

North Korea said last month it was eager for a second meeting with the US.

In July, US envoy Stephen Bosworth held two days of talks with veteran nuclear negotiator North Korean First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-gwan in New York, their first such interaction since 2009.

Last month in Beijing, the two Koreas’ nuclear envoys met for a second time in two months to discuss restarting the six-party talks, which also involve the US, China, Russia and Japan.

In further signs of engagement, North Korean and US military officials are scheduled to meet in Bangkok, Thailand, this week to discuss resuming the search for the remains of US soldiers killed during the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.

Delegates from North Korea will also travel to the US this month for two separate unofficial conferences designed to breathe life into the six-party talks.

While the two Koreas and the US say their talks have been constructive, they have failed to agree on a starting point for a new round of the six-party talks.

Seoul and Washington insist that Pyongyang must first halt its nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program and allow the return of international nuclear inspectors before talks can restart.

The North, with Beijing and Moscow’s support, says that six-party talks should be held without preconditions.

Most experts say North Korea is unlikely to ever give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but the six-party process is useful as it serves to contain its nuclear program and hinders proliferation.

A South Korean government official has also expressed concern that if there is no progress in restarting six-party talks, Pyongyang could carry out another “provocation” such as a nuclear test.

Analysts say the North is feeling the strain of sanctions and wants to restart the talks to get economic aid.

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