North Korea, US, China seek early six-party talks

Beijing, Nov 29 | Updated: Nov 30 2006, 06:43am hrs
North Korea, the United States and host China agreed after two days of meetings on Wednesday to push for an early resumption of stalled six-party talks on dismantling Pyongyangs nuclear programme, but no date was set.

The three sides also agreed to try to achieve positive progress during the informal discussions in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on its website.

Through multiple rounds of trilateral and bilateral talks, the three sides exchanged views on pushing forward the process of the six-party talks and boosted mutual understanding in a candid and in-depth manner, it said without giving further details. It was unclear if North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan, US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Chinese vice foreign minister Wu Dawei would hold a third day of informal talks on Thursday.

A proposed trip to Seoul for Wednesday night was canceled to give Hill time for the Beijing talks, a South Korean government official said. Hill has said he hopes fresh six-party talks can be held in December.

South Koreas Yonhap news agency said North Korea wants sanctions dropped and the United States to free its overseas bank accounts as preconditions for dismantling its nuclear programmes.

Kim made the demands in meetings in Beijing on Tuesday with representatives of other countries in the six-party talks, Yonhap quoted an unnamed source in Beijing as saying. The reported terms, if true, could prove a sticking point in negotiations. North Korea agreed to return to the talks which involve South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia after its first nuclear test last month triggered UN-backed sanctions.

US officials have said they want North Korea, without condition, to stand by last years agreement in which it said it was committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. In return, the other nations held out economic, political and security incentives. Pyongyang agreed to return to the talks after Washington said it was willing to address the impoverished states concerns about financial curbs, tightened in 2005 when U.S. regulators named Macaus Banco Delta Asia as a conduit for illicit North Korean cash from currency counterfeiting and drug trafficking.

But the North has also said it would be unthinkable for it to resume talks until Washington ended the financial restrictions.

Kim called on the US at a Tuesday meeting to re-open its frozen accounts at Banco Delta Asia, a lifting of the UN resolution against the North and the end of individual sanctions as preconditions for its dismantling its nuclear weapons, Yonhap quoted the source as saying.