US delegation sees N Korean talks resuming


Sat, Jan 15, 2005 - Page 5

North Korea could return to six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons programs within weeks, a US Congressional delegation said yesterday after a trip to the communist state.

"Our unanimous impression is that the DPRK is ready to rejoin the six-party process," said Representative Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, during a news conference in Seoul.

Weldon was using the acronym for the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Weldon led a bipartisan delegation that held talks in Pyongyang with North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong-nam, Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, who is also North Korea's chief representative to nuclear negotiations.

The US, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have struggled to arrange a new round of talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. The three prior rounds, hosted by China since 2003, made no breakthroughs. The last round was held in June.

"I am convinced, as are all my colleagues, that if in fact we move along the process that we are moving today, the six-party talks can and will resume in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months or years," Weldon said.

Weldon, who spoke on behalf of his delegation, called the four-day trip an "overwhelming success."

The delegation, composed of six American lawmakers, flew from Pyongyang to Seoul earlier yesterday to brief South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung and local lawmakers on its Pyongyang trip.

North Korea is waiting for US President George W. Bush to be sworn in for his second term.