North Korea Agrees To Return To Nuclear Talks - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/31/06-BEIJING, China

North Korea Agrees To Return To Nuclear Talks

South Korean nuclear activists protest during an anti-North Korea nuclear rally Monday in downtown Seoul. South Korean nuclear activists protest during an anti-North Korea nuclear rally Monday in downtown Seoul.

 North Korea has agreed to rejoin six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program, U.S. and Chinese officials said Tuesday.

Washington hopes the talks will resume before the end of the year, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. In the meantime, U.N. sanctions imposed after an October 9 nuclear test by Pyongyang remain in place.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, said North Korea made no promises not to conduct another nuclear test, according to Reuters news service.

"I think it's self-evident they should not engage in such provocations," Reuters quoted Hill as saying.

But The Associated Press, citing Japanese network NHK, reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo opposes resumption of talks unless North Korea renounces nuclear weapons.

Hill said Pyongyang's concerns over financial sanctions imposed after the nuclear test would be addressed by a working group in the six-party talks involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, Reuters reported.

Pyongyang abandoned the six-party talks a year ago. North Korea favors bilateral negotiations with the United States, something Washington has refused to do outside of the context of the six-party talks.

"It was clear North Korea was faced with a unified voice of the international community that there was a cost to their behavior," McCormack said in Washington.

But some analysts suggested both Washington and Pyongyang had something to gain from an agreement at this time.

"The agreement to resume six-party talks was reached because the Bush administration wants to score a diplomatic point ahead of the midterm elections in the United States and North Korea does not want to see China losing face," Yasuhiko Yoshida of the Osaka University of Economics and Law told Reuters.

China is North Korea's chief benefactor, and Beijing pressured Pyongyang not to conduct its underground nuclear test. The test prompted the United Nations Security Council, with the support of China, to levy sanctions against North Korea.

"The interests of the two sides matched this time. At least it shows that North Korea will not conduct a second nuclear test before the resumption of the six-party talks," Yoshida told Reuters.

"The confrontation [between the United States and North Korea] had reached a peak, but nobody could afford to have war, so the possibility of dialogue had increased also," Paik Hak-soon, head of North Korea studies at Seoul's Sejong Institute, told Reuters.

"It doesn't mean there will be a resolution right away, but the crisis will probably go into a period of latency," he said.

North Korea has rejected the U.N. sanctions as an act of aggression and has threatened South Korea for its role in supporting the U.N. action.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency the news is a "very positive development" and hoped talks would begin "in the near future."

A spokesman for South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Seoul welcomes North Korea's decision, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

Source: CNN

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