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US, North Korea meet for the first time since Dear Leader's death

world Updated: Feb 23, 2012 20:35 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Diplomats from the US and North Korea held talks on issues like disarmament in Beijing on Thursday resuming bilateral talks for the first time since the death of Kim Jong Il in December.

The resumption of Thursday’s talks could also pave the way for the return to table for the six-nation talks involving South Korea, Japan, Russia and China on issues concerning the two Koreas.

Officials from Washington and Pyongyang had met twice last year and, according to analysts, were almost ready to ink a deal where the US would provide food to North Korea in exchange for the Communist regime suspending uranium when Kim Jong Il died.

Today’s meetings – the first was held in the North Korean embassy and the second one at the US embassy – which were said to be exploratory could also give indications about what the new leader, Kim’s son, Kim Jun Un, and his government

According to agency reports, the US special representative for North Korea policy, Glyn Davies, told reporters in Beijing that he will raise humanitarian issues and nuclear nonproliferation.

“Today is, as we say, 'game day'. We will have an opportunity to meet with First vice foreign minister Kim and his team," Davies, said before the start of morning talks on Thursday with Kim Kye Gwan at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing The talks took place days after the US and South Korea held joint military exercises in the seas off the Korean peninsula, sparking tension in the region.

Reports said South Korea conducted a two-hour live-fire drill in waters off its western islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong, located near a tense Yellow Sea border the North refuses to acknowledge.

Seoul said the drill, involving the use of mortars, some 5,000 rounds of ammunition and attack helicopters, was routine and passed without incident.

Also Monday, the US and South Korea started their five-day anti-submarine drills further south of the disputed border. The allies say their long-planned annual drills are defensive in nature, but Pyongyang calls them preparation for an invasion, the Associated Press reported. However, Pyongyang raised its military alert ahead of the drill and threatened "merciless retaliatory strikes" if the South violated its territorial waters during the exercise.