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Handshakes & Smiling Faces Kick off Six-way Talks


Handshakes and Smiling Faces Kick off Six-way Talks

James Kelly and Kim Yong Il, both wearing lapel pins bearing their respective national flags, shook hands and smiled Wednesday morning, as they met at a luxurious Beijing guest house for a new round of multilateral talks on the Korean nuclear issue.

Kelly, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Kim, deputy foreign minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), were ready to show a friendly gesture against the backdrop of a softening of harsh rhetoric from Washington and Pyongyang ahead of the talks.

The Beijing six-party talks, mediated by China, also include Russia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan.

Although most international commentators have been playing down expectations for the talks, scheduled from Aug. 27 to 29, exchanges of smiles and nods in acknowledgment between the two senior US and DPRK diplomats signaled a hopeful beginning.

Upon his arrival at Beijing International Airport Monday morning, Alexander Losiukov, deputy foreign minister of Russia, another key player in Northeast Asia, said that he is cautiously optimistic about the talks. "We will strive to propel the talks to go on," said Losiukov, who heads the Russian delegation.

On Wednesday morning, Losiukov said that talks are the sole realistic way to solve the complicated issue on the Korean Peninsular, according to the website of the Russian Embassy in Beijing. The talks should be the beginning of major substantial bilateral and multilateral talks, he noted.

Losiukov believes that the talks will be fruitful as long as all parties participating have goodwill and a constructive attitude.

"We think that our task in Beijing is to create and enhance mutual trust and an understanding atmosphere on between the North and South Korean Peninsular, which guarantees the security, stability as well as normal political and economic development in Northeast Asia and this fully conforms to Russia's interests," he said.

Losiukov also expressed his "special thanks" to China for its efforts to organize the talks.

In addition to active shuttle diplomacy by the Chinese side leading up to the current talks, the Chinese hosts have been busy consulting with the five other diplomatic groups since their arrival in Beijing.

The formal talks were unveiled at a spacious banquet hall, with a special layout designed for the multilateral event.

Six delegations surrounded, in alphabetic order, a giant hexagonal table, covered with dark green felt. DPRK diplomats were sitting to the left of the US delegation and opposite the Seoul team.

During his opening remarks, Wang Yi, Chinese vice-foreign minister and head of the Chinese team, said the talks represented another important step toward the peaceful solution of the Korean nuclear issue.

He said that Pyongyang has made important decisions for the realization of the six-party talks. Meanwhile, he noted, the United States and other parties concerned have also made active efforts.

China brokered a trilateral meeting in April in Beijing, which failed to reach any substantial agreement between Washington and Pyongyang on how to resolve the crisis.

Since the early 1990s, the US administrations, based on intelligence reports, have urged the DPRK to allow access to the international community for inspection of its nuclear facilities.

The Korean nuclear heated up again after Kelly, as the US president's special envoy then, visited Pyongyang in October 2002 and alleged that the DPRK had acknowledged an enriched uranium program.

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