U.S., North Korea start nuclear program talks in Geneva
Ambassador Stephen Bosworth is surrounded by media as he heads for the second round of rare direct talks between North Korea and the United States, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
Published Monday, October 24, 2011 1:37PM EDT
GENEVA - U.S. and North Korean diplomats opened talks Monday on Pyongyang's nuclear program, the second direct encounter between the two sides in less than three months.
Mobbed by reporters as they left their lakeside hotel for a first meeting at the United States' UN mission in Geneva, American diplomats declined to reveal their goals for the two-day talks.
Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. top envoy on Pyongyang, said the two sides hadn't met Sunday despite staying -- by design or coincidence -- in the same hotel. 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.
Their opposite on North Korea's delegation is First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
The parties met for two hours in the morning before breaking to have lunch separately. After a three-hour halt the talks resumed for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The Koreans then returned at night for dinner at the U.S. mission.
Diplomats were tightlipped about the discussions, revealing little more than their coffee and meal schedules and other logistics.
"We had initial presentations of our respective positions. I think these were useful presentations," American diplomat Clifford Hart told a throng of journalists outside the U.S. mission Monday.
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 neighbours.
North Korea's closest ally China 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 was also blamed for two military attacks on South Korea that heightened tensions on the peninsula.
U.S. Defence 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 behaviour 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 UN'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 UN is calling on countries to provide $218 million in emergency aid to North Korea.