US-North Korea nuclear talks start in Geneva

AP News
Posted: Oct 24, 2011 3:55 PM
US-North Korea nuclear talks start in Geneva

The top U.S. envoy on North Korea has reported some progress after the first day of talks over Pyongyang's nuclear program, the second direct encounter between both sides in less than three months.

Speaking to reporters and TV cameras Monday night as he re-entered his lakeside hotel after their first meeting at the United States' U.N. mission in Geneva, Stephen Bosworth called himself "neither optimistic nor pessimistic."

"We have had a good day of talks. I think we're moving in a positive direction. We have narrowed some differences, but we still have differences that we have to resolve," he said in brief remarks in the lobby of the hotel where the two sides are staying, either by design or coincidence.

He was accompanied by Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is taking over the negotiating brief in future talks.

Bosworth said the United States and North Korea were "conducting very intensive discussions" and would continue to try to narrow their differences, but did not provide more specifics.

Asked by The Associated Press whether they had touched on other 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 _ Bosworth replied affirmatively.

"Everything," he answered, without elaborating.

The parties met for two hours Monday morning before breaking to have lunch separately. After a three-hour halt the talks resumed for a few hours in the afternoon. The Koreans then returned at night for dinner at the U.S. mission.

"As you know, our goal is to try to find a solid foundation on which to launch a resumption of discussions both bilateral and multilateral, and we will continue to work hard to bring that about," Bosworth said. "We have made some progress, we have issues still to resolve and we will work hard to do that."

Their opposite on North Korea's delegation is First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.

The two sides are scheduled to reconvene at North Korea's mission on Tuesday.

U.S. diplomats have previously said they want North Korea to adhere to a 2005 agreement it reneged on requiring verifiable denuclearization in exchange for better relations with its Asian neighbors.

China, North Korea's closest ally, urged Pyongyang to improve its strained ties with United States and South Korea, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Beijing wants to revive the stalled six-nation disarmament negotiations, which also include South Korea, Japan and Russia. North Korea walked out on the talks in 2009 _ and exploded a second nuclear-test device _ but now wants to re-engage. Last year, Pyongyang also was blamed for two military attacks on South Korea that heightened tensions on the peninsula.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lashed out at North Korea on Monday for "reckless and provocative" acts, in an opinion piece published by Japan's Yomiuri newspaper.

He wrote that Washington and Tokyo share common challenges in the Asia-Pacific. "These include North Korea, which continues to engage in reckless and provocative behavior and is developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which pose a threat not just to Japan but to the entire region," he said.

Separately, the U.N.'s top relief official said Monday that the nuclear talks in Switzerland should avoid discussing humanitarian assistance to the chronically hungry Asian country.

Valerie Amos, who visited North Korea last week for 5 days, said it was "not appropriate" for the two sides to discuss humanitarian aid which "must be kept separate from a political agenda."

The U.N. is calling on countries to provide $218 million in emergency aid to North Korea.