Chinese vice foreign-minister to discuss issue on Russian trip

The South Korean government television station, KBS, has reported that North Korean officials are aiming for the next round of multilateral talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program to take place in December, RFA reports.

A North Korean envoy at the United Nations told a KBS Washington correspondent that Pyongyang would like the talks to be held once more in Beijing. But the report gave no further details.

Negotiators from Japan met with those from North and South Korea, China, the United States, and Russia in Beijing in late August for multilateral talks on the crisis, which began in October 2002 when North Korean officials admitted they had restarted their nuclear weapons program. The talks concluded with an agreement to continue, but no date has been set.

North Korea said earlier this week through its official KCNA news agency that it wanted Japan out of the six-nation negotiations. The agency quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying that Tokyo had aligned itself with Washington on the nuclear crisis.

"Japan is nothing but an obstacle to the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States," the statement said. "It has lost its qualification to be a trustworthy dialogue partner."

North Korean official media have carried conflicting statements about Pyongyang's intentions with regard to the talks. China, however, which brokered and hosted the August talks, says the process will continue.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet Russian counterpart Alexander Losyukov during a visit to Russia from Oct. 13-14 to discuss the nuclear issue, the official Xinhua news agency said Friday.

Beijing has already rejected North Korea's call for Japan's exclusion from the talks, saying that the six-nation format should continue.

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.

In an apparent move to put pressure on U.S. negotiators ahead of fresh talks, Pyongyang has also vowed to further boost its production of nuclear weapons, saying it had finished processing 8,000 plutonium spent fuel rods, enough to manufacture up to six nuclear warheads.

South Korea's unification minister Jeong Se-hyun said Tuesday that the situation had become fluid recently, noting that countries involved in the six-way talks previously predicted the second round could take place in October or November. #####


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