N Korea, US look to another round of talks: Report
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Last Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011, 13:10
  
Seoul: North Korea and the United States are looking at holding a second round of dialogue early next month as part of renewed efforts to restart talks on disabling the North's nuclear weapons program, South Korean media reported on Thursday.

Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean official as saying the meeting could take place in a third country, with the cities of Singapore, Berlin and Geneva among the possible choices.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul could not be reached for comment on the report.

On Wednesday, the two Koreas' nuclear envoys met for second time in two months in Beijing , amid a thaw in tensions on the divided peninsula.

Both sides said the talks were productive and useful, but did not produce any breakthroughs to allow for a restart of the regional nuclear talks, which the North walked out of more than two years ago.

"North Korea is pushing to hold the next round of bilateral talks with the US in Pyongyang, but Washington is strongly against it," said the 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."

Most experts say the North is unlikely to ever give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but the six-party process is useful as it serves to contain the North's nuclear program and hinders proliferation.

In July, US envoy Stephen Bosworth held two days of talks with veteran North Korean nuclear negotiator Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in New York, their first such interaction since 2009.

At Wednesday's meeting in Beijing, the North reiterated that the six-party talks -- involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- should be restarted immediately and with no conditions attached.

Seoul and Washington insist that Pyongyang must first halt its nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program, and allow the return of international nuclear inspectors before talks can restart.

Analysts expect it will take a few more months of diplomacy before an agreement can be reached on restarting the regional talks which offer the impoverished North economic and energy aid in return for disabling its nuclear weapons program.

The South Korean official said a third round of talks between the Koreas was also being discussed.

Ties between the Koreas have deteriorated sharply since the six-party talks broke down over two years ago. The North has since conducted a second nuclear test, a long-range missile test, and unveiled a uranium enrichment program which opens another path to make an atomic bomb.

Last year, Seoul also blamed the North for sinking one of its warships, an accusation Pygonyang rejects, and the secretive state carried out a first ever artillery attack on a civilian location on South Korean soil.

Under pressure from their main allies, Washington and Beijing, to calm tensions, the two Koreas have this year taken tentative steps to restart the six-party talks.

Bureau Report


First Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011, 13:10


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