China says North Korean nuclear talks to restart Tuesday |

China says North Korean nuclear talks to restart Tuesday

BEIJING – China said Thursday that six-nation talks on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program will resume next week, even as Pyongyang raised a possible obstacle to progress by renewing calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula.China appealed to all sides to be “flexible and practical” in seeking a resolution to the long-running dispute.The latest round of discussions involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia recessed on Aug. 7 after a failure to agree on a statement of principles despite 13 days of negotiations. The talks resume Tuesday and will be open-ended, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press briefing.North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju said Pyongyang would seek a “negotiated peaceful settlement” to the issue, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.Pak was also quoted as saying the North would “exert tireless efforts to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which was a “dying wish” of Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader who died in 1994.U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday there was progress at the last session and “we are ready to stay as long as it takes to get this done.””We are still working on a statement of principles to which all parties can agree,” he said.A Japanese official expressed optimism the six parties could reach a settlement.”We hope there will be an agreement on North Korea’s nuclear dismantling,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda. He also said Tokyo would try to engage the North in bilateral talks regarding Japanese citizens who were kidnapped and taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.A senior Russian diplomat also was upbeat about the talks.Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said most aspects of the statement of principles had been agreed upon. “This means that the positions of the parties have never been closer,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.Alexeyev added, however, that the United States and North Korea remain divided on the key issue of the scale and scope of dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.He also said Russia opposed U.S. and Japanese proposals to turn over the North Korean nuclear arms issue to the U.N. Security Council as well as any changes in the current negotiation format should the six-nation talks fail again.All six parties have declared the Korean peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons but differences over whether North Korea should be allowed a civilian nuclear program brought the talks to a halt in early August.Washington says Pyongyang shouldn’t be allowed any nuclear program, peaceful or otherwise, because of its record of broken promises.Alexeyev insisted North Korea has the right to receive foreign aid in the development of its nuclear program if it drops its atomic weapons program and returns to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. “As a sovereign state, it will have the right to count upon foreign aid in the development of its peaceful nuclear program,” Alexeyev said.China said last week the North should have the right to develop a peaceful nuclear power program if it rejoins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.Two days ago, North Korea said it would be “unimaginable” for it to dismantle its atomic power industry “without getting any proposal for compensating for the loss of nuclear energy.”The talks were meant to resume in Beijing last week, but North Korea postponed that due to anger over U.S.-South Korean military exercises and Washington’s appointment of a special envoy on North Korea’s human rights.The talks will start on the eve of a U.N. summit to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, with more than 170 world leaders expected. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is not attending, but Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun will lead the country’s delegation and there will be plenty of opportunities for contact with top U.S. officials – if both sides are interested. The six-party talks are being closely watched at the United Nations, along with Iran’s nuclear program.The dispute broke out in 2002 after U.S. officials said the North admitted having a secret nuclear program in violation of an earlier deal to abandon its weapons ambitions.Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper, on Thursday demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea “without delay.”The newspaper commentary was carried by KCNA and coincided with what North Korea called the 60th anniversary of U.S. troops’ occupation of South Korea.Korea was divided after its liberation from Japan’s colonial rule at the end of World War II, with U.S. forces stationed in the South and Soviet forces in the North. About 32,500 American troops remain stationed in the South.”If it is true that the U.S. has no intention to invade and has the stance to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula and improve the relations with (North Korea), it should prove it in practice by making a decision for the withdrawal of its troops,” the Rodong Sinmun commentary said.It did not say if failure to do so would jeopardize the negotiations.North Korea said a recent U.S.-South Korean military exercise proved Washington was planning an invasion. The 12-day drill that ended this month was largely a computer-simulated war game that U.S. and South Korean officials said was purely defensive.Vail – Colorado

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