Nuclear sessions could be at hand

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Nuclear sessions could be at hand

WASHINGTON - The six-party talks could reconvene in March or April, a high-ranking South Korean official said yesterday, as diplomatic efforts to reopen the stalled discussions continued.

Visiting Washington, the official told South Korean correspondents that the six-party talks, which were last held in December 2008, could take place in the coming weeks. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, cited “recent circumstances” as the basis for his judgment.

He referred to the meeting in February between nuclear officials from China and North Korea. Nuclear envoys from South Korea and the United States also traveled to China in February for consultations on how to bring North Korea back to the table.

“North Korea has recently engaged in dialogues under the premise that it would return to the six-party setting,” the official said. “China [the chair nation of the talks] is also intent on an early resumption of the talks.”

The comments came a day after South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the latest diplomatic move to help persuade the North to return to the nuclear talks.

The anonymous official stressed that the United States “wants a guarantee that North Korea will be back to the talks. Any additional bilateral meeting between Pyongyang and Washington would only take place under such a guarantee.”

U.S. officials have also seemed optimistic. Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said in Tokyo yesterday, “I hope that in the not too distant future but fairly soon we will see a resumption of the talks. For our part, we are ready to move on very short notice.”

Clinton said Saturday that the United States is “encouraged by signs of progress to return to the talks.” Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, chimed in and said, “We see the potential here for the six-party process to begin in the coming weeks or months.”

Kim Gye-gwan, the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, hasn’t made any concrete statements on the talks since his visit to Beijing.

Kim has applied for a U.S. visa to attend an academic seminar in New York. If his visa is granted, Kim could meet his U.S. counterpart, Sung Kim.

North Korea has demanded two preconditions before it will return to the six-party setting: lifting of international sanctions and negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Other parties, though, want the North to first come back to the talks.

By Kim Jung-wook, Yoo Jee-ho []

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방미 정부 고위 당국자 발언

2008년 12월 이후 교착상태에 빠진 북핵 6자회담이 3, 4월 중 재개될 것으로 정부 고위 당국자가 전망했다.

미국을 방문 중인 이 고위 당국자는 지난달 27일(현지시간) 워싱턴 주재 한국특파원들과 만나 “최근 정황으로 볼 때 조만간 6자회담이 재개될 가능성이 있다”며 “시기로 본다면 3, 4월 정도로 얘기할 수 있을 것 같다”고 말했다.

이 언급은 최근 왕자루이(王家瑞) 중국 공산당 대외연락부장의 평양 방문과 김계관 북한 외무성 부상의 베이징 방문에 이은 한·미·중 간 연쇄 접촉 이후에 나온 것이어서 주목된다. 이 당국자는 “(북·중 접촉 당시) 김계관 부상의 발언을 옮길 수는 없지만 북한이 최근 6자회담에 돌아오는 전제를 갖고 여러 이야기를 하고 있다”며 “미국도 그런 분석을 하고 있으며, 중국도 6자회담 조기 개최 의지를 갖고 있다”고 설명했다.

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