China, the host of ongoing talks aimed at ending North Korea's
nuclear weapons programs, is drafting a joint statement of actions the
North would agree to take within weeks. Although details of the statement
are not yet clear, negotiators say it is aimed at implementing promises
Pyongyang made two years ago. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill says the first day
of talks in Beijing aimed at getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons
went "pretty well."
"We were able to make progress in discussing de-nuclearization that we
were not able to do in December," he said.
December was the last time the United States, South Korea, Japan, China
and Russia joined in negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to end
its nuclear programs in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits. The
six-nation process has been unsuccessful for more than three years, and
North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test in October.
Hill says China is expected to issue a draft of a joint statement for
these latest talks by Friday.
"The idea is that these would be a set of actions, not a set of
pledges, a set of actions, that would need to be taken in a finite amount
of time," he added.
Hill describes that period of time as "single-digit weeks", although he
would not provide any details about what actions are under discussion.
He said they would start the process of implementing promises North
Korea made at the September 2005 session of the six-party talks.
North Korea boycotted talks aimed at implementing those 2005 pledges,
after the United States blacklisted a Macau-based bank accused of helping
North Korea launder money and circulate counterfeit U.S. currency.
Pyongyang has said there will be no progress on the nuclear issue until
the U.S. financial sanctions are lifted.
U.S. Treasury officials have held two sets of parallel track
discussions with North Korean envoys on the financial issue, which
Washington says is separate from the nuclear diplomacy. Last month,
Ambassador Hill held three days of talks in Berlin with his North Korean
counterpart Kim Kye Kwan, fueling speculation the two countries may soon
reach a compromise.
Many experts have predicted this week's Beijing talks will yield at
least a partial lifting of the financial sanctions, in exchange for some
incremental steps by North Korea to dismantle its weapons programs. There
has been speculation the North will offer to freeze plutonium production
at its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon.
Hill emphasizes a more permanent solution is needed.
"I really do not like to hear this word 'freeze.' We are not interested
in freezing something. We are interested in addressing problems created by
plutonium production in North Korea," he said.
The United States and its regional partners have maintained that any
progress in the nuclear negotiations must be verified by international
inspectors, most likely from the U.N. Atomic Energy Agency.