Negotiators in six-nation talks to halt North Korea's nuclear drive gathered close to its border Thursday for two days of discussions seen as crucial to keeping disarmament on track.
The talks in Shenyang, a vast industrial city in northeast China, are aimed at agreeing on a sequence of events for North Korea to declare and eventually disable all of its nuclear weapons programmes.
It is the second key phase of a six-nation accord signed in February under which the North, one of the world's most impoverished countries, agreed to end those programmes in exchange for fuel aid, security guarantees and diplomatic concessions.
"I think it will go smoothly in the sense that we are not trying to hammer out agreements this week," US chief negotiator Christopher Hill told reporters late Wednesday in Shenyang, some 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the border.
"We're trying to identify the technical means to disable nuclear facilities. Primarily we'll also be talking about the issue of declarations. So I think we can get around the table in a business-like way and identify those issues."
The talks are considered vital to enabling further progress in the next round of full six-nation disarmament meetings in Beijing, tentatively set for early September.
The negotiations group North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
North Korea honoured its initial commitments last month by closing its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and opening its doors to UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
Hill said Wednesday the talks would not directly address any deadlines for further implementation of previous agreements, although he suggested the time element might enter into the talks.
"Of course we would like to see how long some of those technical tasks would take to accomplish. For example if you can disable by a certain process, we would like to know how long that process takes. Because that will be relevant when you put together the overall implementing agreement," he said.
Hill insisted earlier this week that North Korea must come clean on all of its nuclear weapons programmes for the overall process to move forward.
The United States suspects the North, which conducted its first atomic weapons test last October, of running a secretive highly enriched uranium programme in addition to the projects it has already admitted to.
"I think the uranium enrichment process needs to be addressed in the context of the declaration of programmes and I think we have an ongoing effort to do that. I can't be more specific at this time," Hill said here.
The talks take place amid a domestic crisis for North Korea which has been hit by devastating floods which have affected up to 300,000 people, according to official estimates, a disaster the destitute nation can ill afford.
"It's a serious humanitarian issue, and we would like to be a part of the effort to assist. So we need evaluate the situation and see what we can do to help," Hill said.
Last Mod: 16 Ağustos 2007, 12:52