US and North Korea open historic talks06/03/2007 - 07:13:45
More than 50 years after the end of the Korean War, the United States and North Korea opened historic talks on steps to establish diplomatic relations following Pyongyang’s agreement to dismantle its nuclear programme.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan and US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met for four hours yesterday evening for talks and dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. They left without any comment to waiting reporters.
Kim and Hill are to meet again today amid rising expectations of improved US relations with a country President George Bush called part of an “axis of evil” five years ago, along with Iran and pre-war Iraq.
This is the first US visit by Mr Kim, North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator, since the international stand-off over the North’s nuclear ambitions flared in late 2002.
Under an agreement reached at six-nation talks in Beijing last month on the North’s nuclear programme, the United States and North Korea are supposed to open bilateral talks on establishing diplomatic ties.
The North, which tested a nuclear weapon last October, agreed at the talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor by mid-April as a step toward abandoning its nuclear programme in exchange for aid.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack cautioned that this week’s initial meetings would focus on setting the agenda for the US-North Korea working group led by Kim and Hill, the top American nuclear negotiator.
“I think that he (Hill) will talk to them about how the process might proceed regarding normalisation,” Mr McCormack said, including taking North Korea off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and opening the way for a normal trading relationship with the US for the first time.
Kim’s first stop yesterday was the Korea Society, a non-profit organisation that promotes greater understanding and co-operation between Americans and Koreans. He spent more than four hours with a number of academics and VIPs including former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright.
“We had a very good and fruitful and friendly meeting,” Ms Albright told reporters. She visited Pyongyang in October 2000 – the highest-ranking US official ever to visit North Korea – to try to curb the North’s missile programme.
Participants at the meeting, sponsored by the Korea Society and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, said in a statement afterwards they discussed a range of US-North Korean issues including normalisation of relations “in a friendly and forthcoming atmosphere”.
“Participants agreed that continuing dialogue of this nature can be helpful in laying the foundation for improved official relations to be established through forthcoming negotiations,” the statement said.
more stories like this:
- once per day, no spam.