South Korea pessimistic over 6-party nuclear talks
South Korea's nuclear envoy Sunday expressed pessimism about upcoming six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program as negotiators arrived in Beijing to prepare for the meetings, The Associated Press reported.
Kim Sook, who leads the South Korean delegation, was to meet his U.S. and Japanese counterparts later Sunday to lay the groundwork for the latest round of talks scheduled to start Monday.
North Korea - which conducted a nuclear test in 2006 - agreed last year to disable its nuclear reactor in exchange for aid. But it recently denied having agreed to allow inspectors to take samples from its nuclear complex to verify past nuclear activities.
The discussions in the coming week are expected to focus on how to verify Pyongyang's accounting of the program, but negotiators have said they expect the process to be difficult.
"I am not optimistic at all," Kim said, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. On Saturday, Kim met top U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill in Seoul after Hill held two days of preliminary talks with his North Korean counterpart in Singapore.
"As far as I know, there was no explicit outcome or new compromise at the Singapore meeting," Kim said, without providing details.
Hill has said he expects the talks to be difficult and indicated the meetings will focus on working out a detailed plan for verifying the North's nuclear programs.
"We need a situation where when we begin the verification there are no surprises," Hill told reporters in Seoul on Saturday.
North Korea vowed Saturday to ignore Japan at the talks, citing Tokyo's refusal to send aid to the impoverished country as part of the disarmament agreement. North Korea has issued similar warnings in the past, but Tokyo has continued to attend the negotiations that began in 2003.
Under the agreement, North Korea would disable its nuclear reactor in exchange for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid, half of which has been delivered. Japan has refused to join four other countries - China, Russia, South Korea and the United States - in providing the aid until North Korea addresses the kidnapping of more than a dozen Japanese in the 1970s and '80s.