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(LEAD) N. Korea urges resumption of nuclear talks 'without preconditions'

2013/09/18 13:12

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with fresh quotes; AMENDS headline)

By Kim Deok-hyun

BEIJING, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's chief nuclear envoy called for nations involved in the long-stalled talks on the North's nuclear program to resume the multilateral process "without preconditions," a demand that has been rebutted by South Korea and the United States.

"We are ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions," the North's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, who has long experience in negotiations on the North's nuclear program, told a forum organized by China's foreign ministry in Beijing.

Kim said "preconditions" set by South Korea and the United States, however, "are in violation of the spirit of the Sept. 19 Joint Statement," referring to a landmark agreement reached in 2005 at the six-party talks.

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for a U.S. promise not to attack or invade it and to work toward normalized ties.

The one-day forum has been arranged by China to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the six-party talks and the eighth anniversary of the 2005 agreement. The off-and-on forum that involves the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia has been stalled since late 2008.

Titled "Retrospects and Outlooks: A Decade of the Six-Party Talks," the meeting comes amid renewed efforts by China to revive the six-party channel, but South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have shown a cool response to it in the absence of a clear North Korean willingness to disarm.

"Attaching preconditions to our offer of dialogue would cause mistrust," Kim said, urging South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to re-start the six-party process "before it is too late."

   "Denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula is a dying wish of our late leaders and our country's policy goal," Kim said.

"We support the six-party talks, and we are willing to resume dialogue under the framework of the six-party talks, including a small-scale dialogue," he said.

Kim's remarks echoed a proposal made by the North's top military official to hold "four-party talks" with South Korea, China and the United States to discuss its nuclear weapons program.

A diplomatic source told Yonhap News Agency last month that Choe Ryong-hae, the vice marshal of the North Korean People's Army, proposed the "four-party talks" to China in May, when he visited Beijing as a "special envoy" of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the proposal was met with skepticism in Seoul and Washington.