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(2nd LD) N.K., U.S. positive about recent talks: KCNA

All Headlines 17:06 December 11, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with Bosworth's departure for China; RESTRUCTURES throughout; CHANGES headline)
By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Friday that direct talks with the U.S. got off to a good start and that the two sides would continue efforts to narrow their differences over the resumption of the stalled six-party nuclear talks.

U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth's three-day trip to Pyongyang that began on Tuesday produced "a series of common understandings on the need to resume the six-party talks and the importance of implementing the September 19 Joint Statement," the North's foreign ministry said through an unidentified spokesman.

Speaking to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the spokesman gave no hint of when the communist nation would come back to the multilateral negotiations also attended by South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan, or how it would implement the landmark 2005 deal under which the North is obliged to abandon its nuclear weapons in return for political and economic incentives.

In protest over U.N. sanctions imposed after the North's long-range rocket launch and subsequent nuclear test in spring, Pyongyang announced that it would never return to the six-party forum. The North's number two leader Kim Yong-nam later said at an international forum that the talks had "come to a permanent end."

Bosworth traveled to Pyongyang on a mission to prod the North back to the talks, the first official contact between the communist nation and the Barack Obama administration.

The spokesman said that during their "long exhaustive and candid discussion", Bosworth and Kang Sok-ju, the North's vice foreign minister in charge of American affairs, discussed a wide-range of issues, including the conclusion of a peace agreement, the normalization of bilateral relations, economic and energy assistance and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Both sides agreed to continue cooperating in the future to narrow down their remaining differences, the spokesman said without elaborating.

The KCNA report, which came hours after Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton openly described the Pyongyang meetings as "positive," lent credence to speculation that the two sides are likely to have additional contact in the coming weeks or months to set up a new round of six-way talks.

"For a preliminary meeting, it was quite positive," Clinton told reporters after Bosworth briefed South Korean officials on the results of his activity in the North on Thursday. "The approach that our administration is taking is of strategic patience in close coordination with our six-party allies."

Philip Crowley, the U.S. assistant secretary for public affairs, also said, "We await more information from North Korea as to whether and how they will proceed to come back to the six-party process. Whether that means, you know, a phone call or another meeting, we will wait and see."

Meanwhile, Bosworth met on Friday with South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, who is in charge of Seoul's policy on the North, to explain what he discussed there.

He then headed to Beijing later that afternoon to explain to Chinese officials the details of his talks in Pyongyang.

Bosworth is also scheduled to visit Tokyo and Moscow before returning to Washington next Tuesday.

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