Time needed on NKorea N-talks: UN

SEOUL: A top UN envoy today said it could take some time before North Korea rejoins stalled international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programmes.

North Korea, believed to have enough weaponised plutonium for at least

a half dozen bombs, walked away from disarmament-for-aid negotiations and conducted a second nuclear test last year, drawing tightened UN sanctions.

North Korea has called for a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the disarmament talks, which also involve South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

“This process is a negotiated one and they are talking. My impression is that these talks may go on for a bit of time as they decide to get back,” UN political chief B Lynn Pascoe told reporters in Seoul after visiting Pyongyang, North Korea’s

capital. Pascoe, the highest-ranking UN diplomat to

visit the North since 2004, earlier said he made it quite clear to the North Koreans that “we wanted the talks to be re-engaged very quickly to move forward and without preconditions.”

His comments came amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to revive the nuclear negotiations, including a trip in recent days by North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan to Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart. The North’s Foreign Ministry said that “both sides had an in-depth discussion on the issue of boosting the (North Korea)-China relations and matters of speeding up the denuclearisation of the peninsula.” On his return from

China, Kim said the issue

of resuming the nuclear

talks “is still under consultation (with China),” Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported from Pyongyang. He declined to give any details on his talks with China, noting “we are in the process of diplomatic contacts.”

South Korea’s Dong-a

Ilbo newspaper said today that North Korea is strongly pushing for Kim to visit the US for a bilateral meeting in March, but the US has not authorised a visa for him.