Six parties are negotiating schedules

A second round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program is likely to occur before the end of the year, according to officials close to negotiations, RFA's Korean servicer reports.

A senior Bush administration official told reporters he was predicting mid-December, perhaps the second week. While no dates were set, diplomatic activity was moving in that direction, he said.

An announcement is expected after Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi confers with North Korean leaders, the Associated Press quoted the official as saying.

Wang held meetings in Washington last week with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to discuss a follow-up to an initial round of six-party talks that was held in August.

Meanwhile, Chinese vice foreign minister Dai Bingguo met with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Takeuchi Thursday to discuss dates and agendas for the proposed nuclear negotiations as well as other issues regarding the Korean Peninsula, a Japanese foreign ministry official said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan said Wednesday that there was "a considerable possibility" of talks taking place within 2003. Chinese officials have also said they are "positive" a December round could take place if negotiations go smoothly.

Diplomats from the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia met in Beijing for China-brokered talks in late August. The discussions ended with no firm dates for a second round of meetings.

Yoon said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who led the American delegation at the August talks, would travel to the region soon to discuss details for the new round.

He said he would also discuss the topic with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov during a trip to Europe from Nov. 16-25.

The crisis began in October last year when Pyongyang admitted to running a secret uranium-enrichment program in violation of a 1994 accord with the United States.

North Korea now says it wants a bilateral non-aggression 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.

However, President George W. Bush indicated last month that the United States might be prepared to offer informal security guarantees that it would not invade North Korea. North Korea said it would consider Bush's offer.

Washington has ruled out signing a formal non-aggression treaty.


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