U.S. and North Korean diplomats increase contacts
WASHINGTON – U.S. and North Korean diplomats have had three exchanges over the past week, the State Department disclosed Monday.The stepped-up diplomacy, which included fresh U.S. contacts with China, follows assertions by South Korea’s foreign minister that a breakthrough could be imminent in efforts to talk North Korea out of its nuclear weapons program.Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, in Washington to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, raised the possibility of a trade-off that would give North Korea a license to pursue peaceful nuclear activities in a CNN interview on Sunday.However, this and any other concessions would require North Korea to dismantle all of its nuclear weapons facilities and end a program that U.S. intelligence is convinced has already produced at least two bombs.Negotiations are due to resume in Beijing at the end of the month.While the Bush administration seeks to portray a united front with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia on the six-party talks, several of the U.S. partners seem more inclined to compromise. The administration, meanwhile, is urging China to put more pressure on Pyongyang.The senior U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, held talks Monday with Cui Tiankai of the Chinese foreign ministry and planned to talk to South Korean and Japanese officials later this week.”We’re doing careful diplomatic preparations in anticipation of the beginning” of new negotiations in Beijing, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.Last week, McCormack said, there were two diplomatic exchanges between the United States and North Korea and another on Monday between U.S. diplomat Joseph De Trani and a North Korean delegation to the United Nations.”I am not going to get into the details of the diplomatic exchange,” McCormack said. “Only to say that it is part of the diplomatic process.”However, he added that the negotiators are working on the draft of a statement of principles that is designed to lead to an overall agreement.—On the Net:State Department: http://www.state.govCIA Factbook on North Korea: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/kn.htmlVail, Colorado
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