- Title: VARIOUS: North Korea agrees to return to six-party talks
- Date: 2nd November 2006
- Summary: (BN08) BEIJING, CHINA (NOVEMBER 1, 2006) (REUTERS) UNITED STATES ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA CHRISTOPHER HILL WALKING TOWARDS JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED STATES ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA CHRISTOPHER HILL, SAYING: "It's obviously going to be very difficult. I think we have a long way to go. And to be sure that our process wasn't helped by the events this summer - the missile tests, the test of the nuclear device. But we will certainly approach the diplomatic track with the same sense of vigour we have always had." CHRISTOPHER HILL TALKING TO JOURNALISTS CHRISTOPHER HILL WALKING AWAY
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- Story Text: Six-party talks aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear programme must achieve progress in the next round, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said on Wednesday (November 1) before leaving China.
Hill spoke briefly to reporters before leaving for the United States on a day North Korea said it would return to the six-party talks joining the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.
North Korea has boycotted the talks since last year and conducted missile tests in July and a nuclear test last month.
Hill warned that the six-party process could be slow.
"It's obviously going to be very difficult. I think we have a long way to go. And to be sure that our process wasn't helped by the events this summer - the missile tests, the test of the nuclear device. But we will certainly approach the diplomatic track with the same sense of vigour we have always had," said Hill.
The agreement to return to the negotiations -- which Pyongyang has spurned for the past year -- was reached during talks between envoys from North Korea, the United States and China in Beijing this week.
Hill said this time around careful planning was essential.
The last round of talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States broke off in November 2005 after Washington cut Pyongyang's access to the world financial system to punish it for illicit activities such as counterfeiting.
North Korea's agreement to return to stalled six-party talks on its nuclear programme elicited mixed reactions from its neighbours, with some confident it will cut the tension since Pyongyang tested a nuclear device last month while others remained suspicious of the reclusive communist nation.
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed North Korea's announcement to return to the negotiating table but reiterated that the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang will continue.
"It was our demands to North Korea to return to the six party talks so I think it was a good thing that they have complied," Abe told reporters in capital Tokyo.
When asked if Japan would consider easing sanctions, he said:
"No that will not happen. Furthermore United Nation's Security Council resolution 1718 demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons programme and if they don't do that it will mean that the international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council will not be relaxed," he added responding to reporters question about whether Japan planned to lift some sanctions against North Korea.
South Korea's deputy Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan explained to lawmakers in Seoul why North Korea had decided to return to the talks and how South Korea would cope next six-way talks.
"North Korea decided to return to the talks due to the international community's serious warning, (including the role of China and Russia with the United Nations' sanctions) and they felt a need to try to do something to solve the situation. This is from our analysis," Yu told lawmakers at the national assembly meeting.
In Beijing, China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing welcomed North Korea's decision to come back to the negotiating table.
"I think the most important point is that, the fourth round of six-party talks held on September 19 last year archived great results. All parties agreed that we should have a common goal which is to create a non-nuclearised peninsula with long-time peace and stability. China and other parties are making efforts to approach and achieve this goal. The way is to resume the six-party talks, or putting it in another way, to restart the process of six-party talks," Li told reporters in capital Beijing.
He also said the talks will resume in the near future.
Former U.S President Jimmy Carter, visiting Thailand in support of the Habitat For Humanity project, said he hoped for direct talks between the States and North Korea.
"I'm very glad to learn that North Korea is going back to six party talks. My hope is that the framework will include direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea."
Most arms control experts suspect North Korea did pursue an active weapons programme up to 1994, when it signed a landmark agreement with the United States to freeze all nuclear-related activities. But in December 2002, Pyongyang restarted its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and forced two United Nations nuclear monitors to leave the country.
The six-party talks broke off after its last meeting in September 2005 when Pyongyang accused the United States of ratcheting tensions with financial sanctions. The North Korean state then began further tests of its missiles and the nuclear test last October 9.
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