BEIJING – Top nuclear negotiators for China, the United States and North Korea met Tuesday as part of a renewed diplomatic push to resume stalled six-nation talks on the reclusive communist nation's atomic weapons program.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said before the talks got started that the timing of the next round of six-party talks on his country's nuclear program "depends on the United States."
"There are too many outstanding issues" and both parties should narrow their differences, Kim told reporters on arrival at the airport.
Officials have yet to determine an exact date for the next round of negotiations, which have been at an impasse for more than a year. The China-hosted talks also involve the United States, North Korea, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Kim later met China's Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
She said the talks included bilateral and trilateral meetings between the three delegates but did not give any details.
"We hope all sides can grasp this opportunity and take a flexible, pragmatic, and constructive approach in order to realize the early resumption of six-party talks," Jiang said at a regular briefing.
Late Tuesday evening, Hill and Kim separately left the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse where the meetings were held, which seemed to indicate that the talks had finished but neither spoke to the media.
The telephone at the Chinese Foreign Ministry duty office rang unanswered.
Kim's trip to Beijing — a rare overseas visit — and the presence of other negotiators added to prospects of compromises to give new life to the talks.
An unannounced meeting between Hill and Kim last month in Beijing led to Pyongyang agreeing to return to the arms negotiations amid heightened tensions after its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.
Hill told reporters when he arrived Monday that the U.S. anticipated that the talks would "get going at some point very soon."
Hill also met separately with South Korea's nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, and Wu earlier Tuesday, said Susan Stevenson, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. She did not have any details on the talks.
Japan's representative Kenichiro Sasae told Japanese reporters that he also had bilateral talks with Wu and Hill.
North Korea agreed in September 2005 to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid. But Washington imposed financial sanctions against a Macau-based bank on suspicions it was laundering counterfeit money for the North Koreans. Angered by the move, Pyongyang withdrew from the talks two months later.
Chun has said getting preparations right for progress at the talks was more important than setting a date for restarting the negotiations.