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N. Korea-U.S. talks 'positive,' says S. Korean official

 The recent talks between North Korea and the U.S. in New York may not immediately resolve their differences but represent a positive "first step" toward more discussions, a South Korean official said Sunday.

   The official said the meeting between North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan and Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, was "an extension" of an earlier inter-Korean meeting during a regional security forum in Indonesia.

   "I believe the mood (in New York) overall was positive," the official said on the condition of anonymity. "This meeting wasn't so groundbreaking that it will solve problems, but it was a first step toward more discussions between North Korea and the U.S."

   Kim and Bosworth wrapped up their two-day meeting on Saturday, Korean time. Their talks came after Wi Sung-lac, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, and Ri Yong-ho, his North Korean counterpart, met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Bali on July 22.

Wi and Ri agreed to work together to resume the stalled multilateral talks on ending the North's nuclear program "as soon as possible."

   In New York, Kim and Bosworth offered no details on whether substantial progress was made. Kim called the talks "very constructive and business-like," while Bosworth said the U.S. is open to dialogue with North Korea as long as it is serious about denuclearization.

   The Kim-Bosworth talks, their first in 19 months, were aimed at exploring ways to restart the six-party talks that also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

   On additional meetings between Seoul and Pyongyang, or between Pyongyang and Washington, the South Korean official said he expected Kim Kye-gwan to make "a comprehensive decision" once he's back in North Korea.

   "Our government will also coordinate with the U.S.," the official added. "Perhaps there will be a chance for a high-level meeting between Seoul and Washington sometime in August."

   Asked if the U.S. urged the North to hold inter-Korean talks, the official said, "The U.S. basically wants to have both the inter-Korean dialogue and North-U.S. dialogue on table, and I am sure the North understood this clearly."

   The official shot down rumors that Bosworth is about to travel to Pyongyang, and denied that there was an additional meeting between officials from the two Koreas in New York.

   The official indicated that the U.S. will take its time to decide how to handle the recent turn of events, saying, "The U.S.

is not trying to make quick progress."

   He also said chances are low for the U.S. to offer food aid to the impoverished North anytime soon. Robert King, special U.S.

envoy for the improvement of North Korea human rights, attended the second day of talks in New York.

   King traveled to Pyongyang in late May to see if the reclusive regime needed imminent food aid and his presence in the meeting fueled speculation about possible provision of food aid.

   But the South Korean official said he hadn't heard anything certain from Washington and that King was only present for the luncheon on Day 2 out of a total of 10 hours of talks.

(Yonhap News)

 

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