U.S., N. Korea meet alongside 6-way talks


2003-08-27
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U.S. and North Korean officials met privately in Beijing on Wednesday on the first day of six-nation talks to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, but both sides simply reiterated prior demands, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

North Korea wants a bilateral nonaggression pact with the United States before it abandons its nuclear arms program, while the United States wants North Korea to move quickly to scrap the nuclear program first.

U.S. and North Korean diplomats met for 30 minutes on the sidelines of the talks in Beijing, RFA's Korean service reported.

A South Korean government spokesman said the meeting "went smoothly and in a calm manner." No further details could immediately be confirmed.

Pyongyang initially insisted on discussing the nuclear standoff only with Washington but agreed to the multilateral talks on condition that the two countries would discuss the issue bilaterally as well.

The six-way talks opened Wednesday and are scheduled to run until Friday, with China, North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, and Russia participating.

The talks mark a significant milestone in Chinese diplomacy, which has emerged from the interplay between its economically vital relations with the United States and other major trading and investment partners, and its concerns about the unipolarity of a U.S.-dominated world order.

Beijing called on all parties before the talks to avoid hardening their stances. "The Korean Peninsula should be nuclear-free, but enough importance should also be attached to the DPRK's concerns over its own security," said an editorial in the official Xinhua news agency, reflecting Chinese concerns that the United States would use its muscle to increase its influence in the region.

China has also grown increasingly aware that resolving the North Korean nuclear standoff will require concerted effort.

"Against the backdrop of a volatile world, the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula reflects the collision of strategic interests among the sides involved," the Xinhua article said.

The editorial said that hard-line measures would not help the situation. "On the contrary, it would deepen contradictions and threaten regional peace and security."

"In time of peace and development, the very existence of the nuclear issue and possible conflicts it may spark are neither in the fundamental interests of the parties concerned, nor beneficial to regional peace, stability, and cooperation," it said.

It cited tendencies to "exert pressure" and resort to hard-line approaches since the emergence of the crisis. But it warned that "piling up pressure unilaterally or taking hard-line measures will not help solve the nuclear issue."

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