Drumbeat for 6-party talks builds

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Drumbeat for 6-party talks builds

China said several times in the past week that North Korea is ready to come back to six-party talks.

But the United States maintains that a return to denuclearization talks is premature.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged an early resumption of the stalled six-party talks at a Washington think tank Friday after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the day before.

“Now that the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] side has reiterated it will come back to the denuclearization goal, it is time for the six parties to have serious dialogue to work out how we can achieve that goal,” Wang said at the Brookings Institution.

“China and the United States have built much consensus on the issue,” Wang added.

But in fact, the United States has expressed skepticism of the North’s readiness to return to a serious dialogue.

Wang made a three-day visit to Washington on the invitation of Kerry ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At a meeting Thursday, they discussed the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues, Syria, human rights, the South China Sea and other regional and global issues, according to the U.S. State Department.

But the United States has not shifted in its stern stance on North Korea, and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday following the meeting between Kerry and Yi that “the onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearization.

“As we all know, the DPRK’s committed on numerous occasions,” Harf added. “And [Foreign Minister Wang Yi] reminded us that today was actually the anniversary of the joint statement of the six-party talks.”

On Sept. 19, 2005, the six-party talks released a joint statement in which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program and return to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that focused on the Syria crisis, Kerry said, “We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs, because that affects all other issues, whether Iran or North Korea or others.”

Last Monday, North Korea sent a delegation on a five-day trip to Beijing where it met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang, Wu Dawei, China’s point man for the six-party talks, and other officials.

It was headed by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and included six-party talks point man Ri Yong-ho.

Kim called for another round of six-party talks “without preconditions” at a closed-door “Track 1.5” forum held Wednesday in Beijing, according to reports. Track 1.5 meetings include both government officials and scholars of Korean issues.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry sent a mid-level government official from Korea to the forum and a minister-level official from the Korean Embassy in Beijing. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it sent a diplomat as an observer.

On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution calling on North Korea to halt all activities at its nuclear facilities, especially following recent reports suggesting a restart of operations at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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