North pushing nuke talks

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North pushing nuke talks

After several days of cajoling its own masses to accept a young successor to its leader, North Korea is now reaching out to China to revive six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program. Kim Gye-gwan, the first vice minister of North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs, was seen late Tuesday getting off a plane in Beijing, according to sources in the Chinese capital.

It is Kim’s first visit to China since his recent promotion to first vice minister from vice minister of the foreign ministry last month before a party congress that made Kim Jong-il’s son, Jong-un, his designated successor. Kim Gye-gwan has been North Korea’s top negotiator for the six-party talks, which have been stalled since April 2009, and his unexpected trip to China is believed to be related to their revival.

The first vice minister is expected to talk with top officials, including China’s six-party negotiator, Wu Dawei. Wu visited North Korea in August, and then made stops in South Korea, Japan and the U.S. to discuss resumption of the talks.

North Korea has been saying it wants to resume the talks since Kim Jong-il’s surprise visit to China in August, when he urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to restart them.

In April 2009, North Korea walked away from the talks, which are hosted by China and include South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Russia. North Korea conducted a nuclear test a month later. A revival of the negotiations has been unlikely since the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, which South Korea and the U.S. blame on Pyongyang. North Korea denies any involvement.

South Korea has been adamant that inter-Korean relations must improve before talks can resume and asked for an apology for the Cheonan sinking.

By Christine Kim []
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