BEIJING, February 8 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea and the United States are coming closer to overcoming their confrontation at the reconvened six-party talks in Beijing on the North's nuclear program, a source at the talks said.
The talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, have resumed in the Chinese capital amid hopes for progress toward implementing a September 2005 agreement, in which Pyongyang committed itself to halting its nuclear activities in return for economic and security incentives.
According to the source, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan held four one-on-one fringe sessions on Thursday, and they also spoke to each other during a reception hosted by the Chinese delegation. The content of their discussions, however, was not disclosed to other participants.
Diplomatic sources in Beijing said China had presented its draft plan of initial steps for North Korea's nuclear disarmament to the other parties. The draft was distributed among the delegations late at night.
Sources in Beijing said the plan proposes closing and sealing North Korean nuclear facilities, including a five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, 100 km north of Pyongyang, and the launch of supplies of alternative energy sources to North Korea.
Delegations will discuss the plan on Friday morning.
During the day's plenary session, Pyongyang agreed in principle to make initial steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
At a meeting in Berlin last month, Hill and Kim discussed a U.S. freeze of the reclusive regime's Macao bank account over alleged money laundering and counterfeiting. These sanctions prompted the North to withdraw from the six-party talks in 2005.
Pyongyang, which announced its first nuclear weapon test last October, hinted in the run-up to this week's Beijing talks that it may be willing to suspend operations at its Yongbyon nuclear facility, which helped it stage the test, if the United States delivers on an earlier promise to build a light-water reactor in North Korea and to provide it with steady fuel oil supplies pending the facility's construction.
Formally, North Korea and the U.S. have been in a state of war ever since U.S. involvement in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with the signing of a truce. No final treaty was concluded.
On arrival in Beijing, North Korea's chief negotiator said: "We are prepared to discuss the initial steps, but the judgment [for the talks] should be based on whether the United States will come forward and abandon its hostile policy against us and co-exist peacefully."