(RIA Novosti) - North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator arrived in Beijing from Moscow Monday, a visit some observers expect will lead to a breakthrough in the stalled six-nation talks on Pyongyang's controversial nuclear program.
The negotiations, which involve North and South Korea, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States, were launched in 2003 to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions, reports Trend.
In September 2005, North Korea signed a "joint statement" committing itself to abandoning its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
But the reclusive Communist state boycotted the process two months later following Washington's demand that its accounts at a Macau-based bank be frozen for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting of U.S. dollars. Since then, North Korea has conducted its first nuclear test and tested ballistic missiles.
The talks resumed last December, following a 13-month standoff, but ended without result. At a symbolic ceremony, the six participant delegations made a joint statement reiterating their commitment to further negotiations in the same format.
In Moscow, Kim Kye Gwan and Russia's Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, head of the Russian delegation to the talks, discussed the prospects of continuing six-nation talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, following Kim's recent contacts with U.S. envoy Christopher Hill in Berlin last week.
Pyongyang earlier insisted that the possibility of scrapping its nuclear program can only be discussed once financial sanctions are lifted, but reportedly agreed to take steps towards nuclear disarmament following the bilateral talks in Berlin, raising hopes for progress and a quick resumption of the talks.
Hill, who met Sunday with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and left China hours before Kim's arrival, said separate U.S.-North Korea talks on the financial issue are expected to start soon, along with the six-party talks, adding that the Chinese government is set to arrange the start of the talks with the negotiating parties.
South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing diplomatic sources in Seoul, said the talks could resume the week beginning February 5.