In the News – U.S., North Korea Extend Discussions

In the News – U.S., North Korea Extend Discussions

By BRIAN SPEGELE in Beijing and ALASTAIR GALE in Seoul

A senior U.S. envoy said Thursday that negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea had been extended to a second day, a potentially positive sign that talks were progressing between Washington and Pyongyang’s new regime.

Glyn T. Davies, Washington’s special representative for North Korean policy, offered few details of the first day of negotiations in Beijing. He said U.S. and North Korean officials would dine together on Thursday evening.

The negotiations in Beijing were the first formal chance for U.S. and North Korean officials to meet since the death of former dictator Kim Jong Il late last year. Additionally, the talks provide an early opportunity for Washington to glimpse how the new regime under Kim Jong Eun responds to U.S. pressure over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons ambitions.

“We intend to pick up where we have left off this evening,” Mr. Davies said at a press briefing. “The talks today were substantive and serious and we covered quite a number of the issues.”

Food aid for North Korea was among the topics discussed Thursday, Mr. Davies said. It wasn’t clear whether the countries were nearing an aid deal, and Mr. Davies declined to provide details.

Analysts said the issue of food aid could be a chance to compare the earlier regime of Kim Jong Il and the current regime of Kim Jong Eun, and as a way to gauge whether the younger Mr. Kim has consolidated enough political power to move forward on negotiations with Washington. A deal on food aid is likely to be the first step in broaching the relationship’s tougher stumbling blocks, including the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted the North envoy, Kim Kye Gwan, as saying Thursday’s meetings were “positive,” and that both sides took part in talks with a “serious attitude.”

In January, the North linked the nuclear issue with food aid by claiming there was an agreement with the U.S. for it to halt the uranium-enrichment portion of its nuclear-weapons program in return for food and a suspension of other U.S. sanctions. The U.S. denies the issues are linked, but an agreement to provide food aid to the North was thought to have been close to completion before the death of Kim Jong Il.

North Korea has been saying for over a year that it is ready to return to the six-party talks process after walking out on them in 2009. On trips to China and Russia last year, Kim Jong Il told his counterparts that he wanted the talks to resume without preconditions. The talks include the U.S., both Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.

The U.S. position, shared with South Korea, has been that Pyongyang must first show it is willing to take concrete steps toward a suspension of its nuclear program before those talks can resume. Talks between the U.S. and North Korea last year ended without any apparent progress.

Original article can be found here

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