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North Korea ready to discuss first steps to nuclear resolution - 1

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China may present today or tomorrow a draft agreement on the initial steps of North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the head of the South Korean delegation at the six-party talks in China said Thursday.
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BEIJING, February 8 (RIA Novosti) - China may present today or tomorrow a draft agreement on the initial steps of North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the head of the South Korean delegation at the six-party talks in China said Thursday.

A new round of the six-nation talks on the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula opened in Beijing Thursday.

The official said that by summing up today's addresses of all delegations on the issue, China could present a draft agreement on Thursday or Friday.

North Korea has expressed its readiness to discuss the first steps toward resolving the dispute over its nuclear program at the talks in Beijing, but its position remains largely unchanged, a source close to the negotiations said Thursday.

"The head of the North Korean delegation, Kim Kye Gwan, expressed his readiness to discuss initial measures to implement a joint statement dated September 19, 2005, but on the whole, the country's position has not changed," the source said.

The third stage of the fifth round of the talks, which have been ongoing since 2003, involves representatives of the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States.

The talks will focus on how to begin North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

The six-party talks last resumed in Beijing in December 2006 following a 13-month standoff, but ended without result. At a symbolic ceremony, the six participating delegations made a joint statement reiterating their commitment to further negotiations in the same format.

Wu Dawei, a deputy foreign minister heading the Chinese delegation, said he welcomed the work of the parties to promote the talks, and hoped they would make every effort "to begin the implementation of the [2005] joint statement and to start the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

In September 2005, North Korea signed a "joint statement" committing itself to abandoning its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

But the Communist nation boycotted the process two months later following Washington's financial sanctions. Since then, North Korea has conducted its first nuclear test and tested ballistic missiles.

The U.S. and North Korea held closed consultations in Beijing January 30 on the issue of Washington's financial sanctions introduced against Pyongyang in late 2005 for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting U.S. dollars.

The frozen North Korean accounts, which total $24 million, remain the major stumbling bloc in the negotiation process. But consultations with North Korea suggest that the United States might unfreeze at least half of the sum.

The South Korean press has said North Korea could be disarmed in four stages: freezing the declared nuclear facilities, declaring the remainder, inspecting the new facilities and dismantling them.

North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan has said that for now the country is only prepared to discuss its current nuclear ambitions.

North Korean authorities have repeatedly indicated that Pyongyang would only agree to scrap its already acquired nuclear potential after the United States stops trying to oust the current North Korean leadership and alter the country's social system.

Japan has insisted that the North Korean nuclear reactor be placed under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency as a first step toward the DPRK's nuclear disarmament.

"As for denuclearization, North Korea should terminate the operation of its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, seal them and receive an IAEA inspection that would control the facilities' stoppage," a deputy Japanese foreign minister, who is leading Japan's delegation at the talks, said Thursday.

Kenichiro Sasae spoke for a detailed discussion of the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization at the current round of talks.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry told a briefing in Beijing that the six-party talks' participants are set to overcome differences and reach an agreement on initial measures to disarm the DPRK.

"All heads of delegations confirmed that they are seriously trying to overcome differences and reach an agreement on the initial steps to implement the joint statement dated Sept. 19, 2005," Qin Gang said.

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