Chine: N. Korea talks will resume next week

Iran Materials 12 December 2006 16:37 (UTC +04:00)

(latimes) - Disarmament talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program will resume next week, China said Monday, announcing an apparent end to Pyongyang's months-long boycott of the negotiations because of U.S. financial sanctions.

Diplomats have been trying to set a date since North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's government agreed to return to the six-nation talks, a breakthrough that followed the communist regime's Oct. 9 test of a nuclear device, reports Trend.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a one-sentence statement on his ministry's website that the talks, which include the United States, would resume Monday in Beijing.

Japan, Russia and South Korea also are participating in the talks.

Tokyo plans to bring up the lingering issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s, said Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki.

North Korea's main official newspaper said Tokyo shouldn't return to the talks, criticizing a crackdown on a pro-Pyongyang group of ethnic Koreans in Japan over its suspected role in the North's weapons programs.

The newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Japan would make it "difficult to solve the issue and waste time by bringing to the table irrelevant issues."

North Korea frequently issues bellicose statements about Japan and other countries, and Monday's criticism of Tokyo was not expected to have any bearing on the negotiations.

Tokyo has already angered Pyongyang by barring North Korean citizens, goods and ships from Japanese ports after the nuclear test.

The South Korean government welcomed Monday's announcement of renewed talks and said it expected progress.

Lee Yong-joon, head of a South Korean Foreign Ministry task force, said participants would aim for progress "in at least parts" of a Sept. 19, 2005, joint declaration in which the North agreed to abandon its nuclear development in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Last month, the U.S. offered North Korea details about the kind of economic and energy assistance it would receive in exchange for shutting down its nuclear arms facilities. It is unclear whether the communist country made specific promises.