Senior negotiators from the United States and North Korea are set to meet in Beijing this week, for talks that are widely hoped will lead to the resumption of six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
American negotiator Glyn Davies told reporters Wednesday in Beijing North Korea's agreement to hold talks is a positive sign, especially coming so closely after the December death of leader Kim Jong Il.
He says, after several U.S.-North Korean meetings in the past year, he wants to see what the new North Korean leadership, under Kim Jong Un is prepared to do.
“Are they prepared to pick up where we left off from the New York meeting in July, the Geneva meeting in October? Can we move forward on that basis? Can we find a way forward, in particular on the issue of denuclearization?”
His counterpart, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, arrived in Beijing Tuesday. When asked by a Chinese reporter about his expectations, he told her to wait and see.
The U.S. negotiator says Washington is also concerned about non-proliferation, human rights and humanitarian issues.
In December, the United States and North Korea had been discussing the possibility of sending American food aid to help starving North Koreans. Media reports say, in return, North Korea was to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
These talks were interrupted by Kim Jong Il's death and Davies said Wednesday the United States has made no final food aid decision.
Another goal of Thursday's meeting is to see a resumption of the six-party North Korean nuclear talks, which have been suspended for more than two years. At the same time, Davies says Washington does not want the talks, if the price to be paid is too high.
“We are not interested, as we have said many times, in talk for talk's sake. We first need to see signs that North Korea is indeed prepared to take steps to reassure all of us, in particular the United States, since I represent the United States, that they are sincere in getting back to fulfilling the obligations that they themselves made.”
China hosts the six-party talks, which also include the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed his government's optimism that there will be positive results.
He says China hopes all parties will help maintain what he describes as the "momentum of contact and dialogue." He says they should strive to resolve differences through dialogue and restart the six-party talks as soon as possible.