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(2nd LD) N. Korea's nuclear envoy arrives in Beijing for security forum

All Headlines 18:06 June 20, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS comments from China's foreign ministry, details in paras 8-10)
By Kim Deok-hyun

BEIJING, June 20 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean nuclear envoy arrived in Beijing on Monday to attend an annual security conference that brings together government officials and scholars from all six nations involved in the long-stalled negotiations about the North's nuclear weapons program.

Choe Son-hui, deputy director for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry and the North's deputy chief envoy for the six-party talks, did not respond to questions by reporters upon her arrival at the Beijing airport.

Choe is scheduled to attend the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) that will start its two-day run from Wednesday. The top U.S. envoy on North Korea policy, Sung Kim, is also slated to attend the forum.

Organized by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) of the University of California, San Diego, the NEACD has served as an opportunity for informal dialogue between North Korea and its nuclear negotiation partners -- South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea, which conducted its fourth nuclear test in January this year, did not attend the NEACD in 2014 and 2015.

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the forum's organizers said this year's NEACD was jointly organized with the IGCC and the China Institute of International Studies.

"Participants will exchange views on the current state of the regional security situation and how to reduce tensions and promote strategic trust," the statement said.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to confirm whether there will be bilateral meetings between the nuclear envoys from North Korea, China or the United States on the sidelines of the NEACD.

Instead, Hua said the six nations involved in the long-stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program "attach great importance" to this week's forum.

Among the senior diplomats attending the forum will be Kim Gunn, South Korea's deputy chief nuclear envoy, and nuclear envoys from China, Russia and Japan, according to diplomatic sources.

The six-party talks were last held in late 2008 and diplomatic efforts to resume the negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions have produced little results, as the North showed no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program.

Earlier this month the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that North Korea appears to have restarted its main nuclear bomb fuel plant.

If the warning by the IAEA is correct, it would be the latest move by North Korea to expand its nuclear weapons program, despite tightened international sanctions.


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