Published : 2010-04-06 12:29
Updated : 2010-04-06 12:29
By Lee Joo-hee and Kim Man-yong Korea Herald and Herald Business correspondents
Nuclear weapons negotiators from the United States and North Korea gathered yesterday afternoon to consider ideas on how to draft a joint agreement based on previous rounds of their bilateral talks.
American and North Korean counterparts sat face-to-face inside Daioyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing for a fourth time in a laborious attempt to balance out their views on what they mean by denuclearizing the Korean peninsula since the problem encompasses their conflicting views on whether denuclearization should include both weapons and nuclear power.
Top representatives of the two Koreas met immediately after the U.S.-North Korea meeting. Details of both discussions were not immediately made known.
With forecasts predicting that the talks will be protracted into early next week, the key issue is whether or not the United States and North Korea can successfully negotiate upon and define the fundamental principles of what denuclearization is to mean.
The two sides are likely to await further directives from their governments before taking a step forward from in-depth discussions held over the past five days.
Other concerns, including North Korea`s problems with the South Korea-U.S. alliance and Pyongyang`s nuclear energy program are expected to fall more easily into place after the fundamental weapons principle is set.
Christopher Hill representing Washington told reporters as he headed out for the meeting with the North in the morning that the latest discussions allowed him to learn about North Korea`s idea on denuclearization and vice versa.
He said they exchanged views but didn`t reach a consensus and that they will "keep the talks going to make it move."
South Korea`s top negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon told reporters before the scheduled general meeting in the afternoon, "It is possible the parties will have detailed discussion on what parts we can make pledges on."
Although an ultimate consensus is still on the horizon, the parties, particularly the United States and North Korea, have so far kept themselves on the right lane, discussing first elemental interpretations of their shared goals to denuclearize the peninsula before moving onto more specific disparities.
Over in Washington, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack reemphasized the influential role of Christopher Hill during his daily news briefing and echoed the U.S. government`s intention to seek an agreement on the fundamental principle.
"Right now, our focus is on, and the focus of the parties in the talks is on drafting what we are referring to as a statement of principles that we think will allow us to build a foundation that we hope to make progress on towards the ultimate goal of a denuclearized peninsula," McCormack said.
The spokesman confirmed that Washington`s top diplomat and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan discussed the 2004 proposal, that was set forward by the United States and denied by North Korea. There were reports that North Korea reaffirmed its rejection to the proposal, which it claims puts an excessive burden on North Korea to make concessions before receiving any evidence of concrete reimbursement.
"We have a new round (of talks) here and we are looking for all the parties to have input to a new statement to come out of this round," McCormack said to a question on whether the June 2004 proposal no longer worked as a basis for the discussions.
In separate news, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura in Washington and discussed Japan`s attempt to bring up the North Korean abduction issue at the six-party talks.
Machimura reportedly said the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Koreans in the 1980s was an issue that needs to be addressed by the two Koreas, the United States and Russia, but also added that the discussion should be held within the bilateral talks with North Korea.
Rice and Machimura also talked about Japan`s challenge to permanently enter the U.N. Security Council.