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Reconciliatory Remarks From U.S., North Korea As Talks Begin

26 July 2005 -- The U.S. and North Korea have made conciliatory remarks, as six-party talks get under way in China to address Pyongyang's nuclear program.

In opening remarks, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill reassured North Korea that the U.S. views the country as a sovereign country that it will not attack.

And Kim Kye-Gwan, North Korea's top delegate to the talks, said the North is "fully ready and prepared" to work toward ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

"We have to get rid of the threats of a nuclear war from all over the Korean Peninsula and this calls for a strategic decision and political will from the parties who are trying to achieve a nuclear-free peninsula," Kim said.

However, in its opening statement, Japan called for North Korea to respond "seriously" to Tokyo on the fate of its missing citizens, kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

South Korea, China, and Russia had urged Japan not to raise the controversial abduction issue, saying the talks should deal only with North Korea's nuclear program.

The six-party talks are the first in more than a year.