Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - Page 5 News List

‘No breakthrough’ at US-N Korea talks

AFP, SEOUL

A senior US official said yesterday there was some progress made, but “no breakthrough” at this week’s meeting with North Korea aimed at restarting long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was speaking after briefing South Korea about the talks in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday.

“I think it will be fair to say we did make some progress. There was no breakthrough. There is a substantial amount of work that needs to be done. No decisions have been taken about next steps,” Campbell told reporters.

“We clearly stated our position on pre-steps,” he said without elaborating.

The North formally quit the six-party nuclear talks in April 2009, a month before staging its second atomic weapons test.

It has since repeatedly said it wants to come back without preconditions to the negotiations, which group the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

Washington and its allies say Pyongyang must first take steps to show its sincerity, such as shutting down a uranium enrichment plant that could be converted to make nuclear weapons.

North Korea said yesterday the Geneva talks made progress and the two sides would hold further meetings.

“Both sides decided to further ... contacts and talks to discuss and solve the pending issues in the light of building confidence,” a foreign ministry spokesman told Pyongyang’s official news agency.

However, the spokesman reiterated that the full six-nation nuclear negotiations should restart without any preconditions.

Campbell, who is wrapping up an Asia trip that took him to Indonesia and the Philippines, arrived in Seoul early yesterday for a stopover to meet South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin.

“One of the reasons that we are here is to begin the process of deep discussions with South Korea so that we can plot our course going forward [on nuclear issues],” Campbell said.

He said that the US side in Geneva stressed the need for the North to engage in dialogue with the South.

Meanwhile, South Korean troops launched a major exercise yesterday near the tense sea border with North Korea as the US and South Korean defense chiefs discussed ways to thwart potential attacks by the North.

The two-day drill was being staged near Baengnyeong, a frontline island in the Yellow Sea, as part of a nationwide exercise that will last until next Friday, military authorities said.

“This is a joint drill involving Marines, jet fighters, naval ships and army troops,” a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said, adding that there would be live-fire exercises.

South Korea has staged a series of drills alone or jointly with US troops since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship near the island with the loss of 46 lives in March last year.

Military officials have not given troop numbers for the nationwide exercise. Yonhap news agency said it would involve 140,000 troops including about 500 US Marines and sailors. No US troops are taking part in the two-day drill in the Yellow Sea.

The drill came as US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin at the start of an annual security meeting to discuss their joint defense posture.

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