BEIJING (Yonhap News) ― The United States and North Korea are seeking to hold a second round of talks early next month to discuss terms for resuming the long-stalled six-nation negotiations on ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs, a South Korean official said Thursday.
The bilateral talks are expected to follow a series of meetings held between the Koreas’ chief nuclear envoys in Beijing on Wednesday. Wi Sung-lac of South Korea and Ri Yong-ho of North Korea said their discussions had been “useful,” but they failed to agree on the terms for resuming the six-party talks that were last held in December 2008, according to South Korean officials.
The multilateral forum, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, aims to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic and political aid. It has been dormant since Pyongyang quit in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
“North Korea is pushing to hold the next round of bilateral talks with the U.S. in Pyongyang, but Washington is strongly against it,” said one senior South Korean official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Currently, the two sides are discussing the possibility of meeting in a third country.”
Possible meeting places include Singapore, Berlin and Geneva, the official said.
If held, the U.S.-North Korea talks will come shortly after the two sides met in New York in July. Those preliminary discussions also came directly after Wi and Ri met for the first time in more than two years on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Indonesia.
“In the future, (we) hope to establish this system of holding inter-Korean talks and U.S.-North Korea talks in parallel sessions,” the official said, saying that a third round of talks between the Koreas is also being discussed.
“We proposed continuing this process of inter-Korean denuclearization talks, and the North Korean delegation did not object.”
Seoul and Washington have insisted that Pyongyang halt all nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program, and allow U.N. inspectors to monitor the suspension as preconditions to reopening the six-party talks. North Korea, however, is pushing to resume the forum without any conditions attached.
Wi and Ri failed to narrow their differences over the terms, but they were able to develop a better understanding of each other in some areas, and clear misunderstandings in others, according to South Korean officials.
North Korea has a track record of using provocations and dialogue with South Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers to try to wrest concessions before backtracking on agreements and abandoning talks.
Meanwhile, Wi is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, later in the day to discuss the results of Wednesday’s talks and next steps in reopening the six-nation forum.