BEIJING – Top negotiators from the United States and South Korea flew into Beijing Monday for meetings to set a date for renewed talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill landed in the Chinese capital, hours after South Korea's nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo. Kenichiro Sasae, director of the Asia and Oceania Bureau at Japan's Foreign Ministry, arrived Sunday.
"The issue for us is to make sure we are extremely well planned and ready for the six-party talks, which we do anticipate will get going at some point very soon," Hill said at Beijing's airport.
"We will be talking with the Chinese hosts about a date," added Hill, who will meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, Beijing's representative to the talks, on Tuesday.
According to the Japanese Kyodo News agency, Hill and Chun will meet separately with Kim Kye Gwan, vice foreign minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK, North Korea's official name. Kim is expected to arrive Tuesday, the news agency said, citing diplomatic sources.
Asked about the possibility of a meeting with Kim, Hill said: "We've always said we're prepared to meet with the DPRK officials in this context of the six-party talks."
After talks between Hill and Kim last month in Beijing, Pyongyang agreed to return to six-party arms negotiations. The agreement followed heightened tensions after North Korea's first nuclear test on Oct. 9.
Officials have yet to determine an exact date for the renewed negotiations, which have been stalled for more than a year. Russia is the sixth country involved.
Chun said laying the groundwork for progress at the talks was more important than setting a date for restarting them.
"We will mainly focus on the procedure of the talks as it is essential to accomplish substantial progress rather than talking just for the sake of talking," Chun said after arriving in Beijing.
"We will decide the date according to the results of meeting this time," he said.
The six-nation talks were last held in November 2005 when the envoys failed to make progress on implementing an earlier agreement, in which the North pledged to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
"The holding of the six-party talks is on the horizon, so I hope to discuss ways to make progress in the six-way talks, as well as ways for Japan and China to cooperate over the issue," Japan's Sasae said, according to Kyodo News. The agency reported Sasae would not meet Kim.
Hill said he will stay in Beijing "a couple of days" and then go to Seoul and Tokyo.