Russia: North Korea's Kim Jong Il agrees to nuclear talks
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to renew long-stalled international talks on the country's nuclear weapons arsenal and will consider a moratorium on testing, Russian officials said Wednesday, DPA reported.
The apparent diplomatic breakthrough, which could return international nuclear oversight to the world's most secretive state, came as Medvedev and Kim met at a Russian military base in the remote Buryatia republic in central Siberia.
Russian television showed an assistant helping a seemingly frail Kim out of a limousine as he arrived.
North Korea in April 2009 walked out of six party talks on its nuclear weapons programme, expelled international inspectors and announced it would resume developement of atomic weapons.
South Korea, China, the US, Russia and Japan are pushing for North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons.
"They (the North Korean delegation) have confirmed their readiness to return to (nuclear arms control) talks without preconditions. During the talks they will be ready to discuss the question the moratorium," said Natalia Timakova, Medvedev spokeswoman Natalia Timakova said at a press conference following the talks.
Medvedev, in comments to local reporters, said the talks focused largely on bilateral economic issues, among them a project to extend Russian natural gas deliveries into energy-hungry south Korea via a pipeline crossing North Korea.
"The talks were open, comprehensive and wide-reaching," Medvedev said at a press conference.
The restructuring or even annulment of an outstanding 11 billion dollar debt by North Korea to Russia also was discussed, Interfax reported.
Kim and Medvedev later participated in a ceremonial parade of a Russian Army paratrooper unit, during which the North Korean leader presented the regiment's colonel a battle ensign.
They then ate a gala lunch with a menu featuring the Siberian delicacies Kamchatka crab, pancakes stuffed with salmon caviar, beef boullion with dumplings, whitefish fillets and forest berries with honey.
There was a heavy presence of police and army troops throughout Buryatia and its provincial capital of Ulan-Ude, where Kim arrived on Tuesday.
One of the world's most secretive leaders, Kim has been travelling by armoured train along Russia's Trans-Siberian railroad since Saturday.
The North Korean delegation en route to the Medvedev meeting have toured a Russian hydroelectric plant, ridden an excursion steamer on Lake Baikal and visited an aircraft factory.