Yearly forum with 6-party experts kicks off in Beijing

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Yearly forum with 6-party experts kicks off in Beijing

Senior officials and experts from the six nations involved in long-stalled talks to denuclearize Pyongyang will gather together in Beijing for a security forum today.

Choe Son-hui, a deputy director for North American affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, arrived in Beijing Monday for the three-day Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (Neacd), which kicks off today and runs through Thursday. She did not respond to any reporters’ questions at the airport.

This forum will be watched closely for any encounter between diplomats from Pyongyang and Washington. Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, is also scheduled to attend. The annual forum, first launched in 1993, is organized by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation of the University of California, San Diego. This half-government, half-civilian dialogue - nicknamed Track 1.5 - brings together high-level policymakers, defense and foreign affairs officials, military officers, and scholars from the countries involved in the six-party talks to discuss security in Northeast Asia.

The six-party talks were initiated in 2003 among China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas with the aim of convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions and resolve security concerns on the Peninsula. The talks have been suspended since late 2008, when North Korea walked away.

Wu Dawei, China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, Kenji Kanasugi, the director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of Japan’s Foreign Ministry, and Grigory Logvinov, ambassador-at-large at the Russian Foreign Ministry, who has served as deputy negotiator to the six-party talks, are expected to attend the dialogue.

South Korea is sending Kim Kun, vice negotiator of the six-party talks, instead of Kim Hong-kyun, the chief negotiator who is serving as special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs.

The U.S. Department of State said it has no plans for direct talks with Pyongyang officials.

However this is a rare opportunity for the nuclear-related envoys of the six-party nations, including Wu, China’s chief negotiator of the six-party talks since fourth round negotiations in 2005, to gather in one place.

Choe served as an aide and English interpreter for the North Korean delegation during the six-party talks in the past. As the deputy representative to the six-party talks, Choe also attended this dialogue in 2012.

North Korea has generally participated in the Neacd since 2002 but did not in the past two years.

The forum comes more than three months after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2270 on March 2, imposing the toughest-to-date sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missiles development program.

“The priority right now is put on the denuclearization [of North Korea], which is understood in the bigger picture by the [international community],” said a Seoul foreign ministry official Monday.

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