US, North Korea hold highest level meeting in four years

July 23rd, 2008 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, July 23 (DPA) The US and North Korea held Wednesday their highest level meeting in four years over the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her North Korean counterpart Pak Ui Chun, along with other members of the six-party talks, held an informal session in Singapore on the sidelines of the meetings of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Rice said the unofficial talks were “good,” but there were “no surprises”.

Other participants in the talks were the foreign ministers from North Korea, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan.

North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Ri Tong Il said Pak was hopeful the talks could build momentum toward ending the declaration and verification stage.

Pak called for complete abandonment of hostile US policies toward North Korea.

The negotiations were stalled until last month when North Korea turned over a partial accounting of its nuclear programmes that the US wants verified. “This meeting just ended will be a driving force to push forward the full implementation of the Sep 19 (2005) agreement,” the North Korean spokesman quoted Pak as saying.

That agreement refers to an outline on the demobilization.

“Pak expressed the willingness of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to implement its own obligations closely following the implementations by other parties on the principle of action for action,” the North Korean spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said “major progress” was made during the meeting that could finally lead to the eventual denuclearization of North Korea.

Earlier, Rice praised ASEAN. “It is a good thing to have an organization like ASEAN,” she told Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo. “I think it has become really a place where people can rally and try to solve problems. I think you are doing a good job.”

Singapore currently holds the ASEAN chairmanship.

Rice held bilateral meetings with her counterparts from China, Russia, South Korea and Japan before convening with North Korea for the six-party talks.

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