U.S. diplomats arrived in Geneva on Sunday for talks with North Korean officials about Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, the second direct encounter between the two sides in less than three months.
U.S. officials say the "exploratory" meeting is aimed at keeping North Korea engaged in discussions, but remain a step short of formal negotiations.
North Korea's delegation, headed by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, arrived in Geneva on Saturday after flying to China and Russia. The U.S. delegation is headed by the U.S. top envoy on Pyongyang, Stephen Bosworth, and Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
On Sunday, reporters staked out a downtown hotel overlooking Lake Geneva where delegations from both countries _ still formally at war _ are staying, either by plan or coincidence.
As U.S. diplomats left the hotel for dinner at a nearby brasserie, they were mobbed by Japanese and South Korean reporters eager to know if the two sides had already met. They had not.
Formal talks were scheduled to take place at the United States' U.N. mission in Geneva on Monday and North Korea's U.N. mission on Tuesday.
The U.S. wants North Korea to adhere to a 2005 agreement it later reneged on requiring verifiable denuclearization in exchange for better relations with its Asian neighbors. The talks could also touch upon long-standing issues such as food aid to the chronically impoverished North, reuniting separated families on the Korean peninsula, and recovering the remains of troops missing in action.
North Korea last week repeated calls for the immediate resumption of six-nation disarmament-for-aid talks, something Washington has said will only occur when Pyongyang freezes its nuclear programs, allows access to U.N. inspectors, halts further nuclear and missile tests, and promises not to attack South Korea again.
Pyongyang conducted its second-ever nuclear test in 2009 and in late 2010 disclosed a uranium enrichment program that could give it another means of generating fissile material for nuclear bombs. Last year, it also was blamed for two military attacks on South Korea that heightened tensions on the peninsula.